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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

No Bake Pecan Pie Bars - Gluten-free, Raw and Vegan

I have become obsessed with Medjool dates and I am still just as amazed now as I was the first time I baked with them. It is incredible how sweet they are. I have made quite a few simple raw “cookie” balls in the processor with just oats and/or nuts, some dates and other goodies like chocolate chips or peanut butter. They are so simple and a totally healthy way to get your sweets-fix. I need to start taking photos of those and sharing them with you. You will love them.

A few months back while shopping at the Lexington CoOp here in Buffalo, I ran across something called a “Raw Pecan Pie Bar” (I forget the name of the company that made it) – it was raw and sweetened only with dates and also had sprouted pecans and sprouted something else (can’t remember, again). It immediately peaked my interest, so I picked one up. It was quite tasty, but I couldn’t help but think I could make it even better. Plus, at $3.50 for a single small bar, I knew I could make it cheaper.

I had been looking at different recipes online for date bars as a base for my recipe and ultimately settled on Oh She Glow’s blog, once again. I liked how simple her recipe was and that it included everything that I love! I made a few additions and changed it up a bit to make it similar to a pecan pie. I am so excited about how these turned out. Oh and one quick thing to mention about these bars, because they aren’t loaded with sugar, you could even have this as a breakfast bar. I cannot believe it is sugar-free, egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and it’s even raw! If someone rattled off all of those things to me, with the words “pecan pie” – I would likely laugh in their face. You have to trust me though, these are so amazing. Even my southern-boy pecan pie loving hubby liked him, though he took one bite and said “man, these are good, a big ‘ol scoop of vanilla ice cream over top would really make this.” haha some things will never ever change.

I tend to actually have cravings for sweets around this time of year, which is crazy since I really don’t crave sweets that often. I think it could be the fact that everywhere you look there are holiday cookies and sweets just laying out, begging to be eaten. I am trying really hard to stick with my usual way of eating through the holidays this year, so I don’t step on the scale after the holidays to find I put on 5-lbs. I am planning to make a handful of alternative holiday sweets over the next couple of weeks, so I can still partake in the festive eating, but in a healthy way. I am also making sure when and if I do partake in some not-so healthy holiday eating – that I remember that everything in moderation is OK, a taste here won’t kill me and I would much rather have a little and know when to stop then to feel like I am missing out on something I really want.

Do you try to eat healthy during the holidays or do you just forego all healthy eating rules during the holidays?

No Bake Pecan Pie Bars - Gluten-free, Raw and Vegan

No Bake Pecan Pie Bars – Gluten-free, Raw and Vegan

Adapted from Oh She Glows
Makes 9 large squares or more if cut smaller

Crust:

1 1/2 cups whole raw almonds (you could also do 3/4 cup almonds and 3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut)
1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats (if you aren’t gluten-free just use regular rolled oats)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
10 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Date and Pecan Topping:

25 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup roughly chopped raw pecans

Line an 8″ x 8″ pan with two pieces of parchment paper going opposite ways. In a food processor, process the almonds, salt, and oats until a fine crumble forms. Add in the chopped dates and process until crumbly again. It your coconut oil is solid, melt it quick and add to the mixture with vanilla and process until sticky and a bit doughy. If your dough seems a bit dry, you can add a bit more oil, mind was fine as is. Remove from processor and press the dough very firmly and evenly into the pan to form your crust.

Clean the food processor real quick and process the dates with water and vanilla until a thick paste forms, it should be mostly smooth and creamy. You will have to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl often. You can add a tiny bit more water if needed, but you want the paste quite thick. Scoop out the date mixture onto the crust and gently spread with the back of a wet spatula until even.

Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly across of it and gently press down with fingers. Refrigerate in the fridge until firm for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. Cut into squares and serve. Store in the fridge or freezer.

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It's The Most Wonderful Time...

It's The Most Wonderful Time...


Happy December everyone! I guess that title should really say – “It’s The Most Busy Time….”

Well as you may have guessed, the shortage of posts on here this week is due to the craziness of my life right now, once again. We are getting all geared up for the holidays both at home and with the business. I am a total holiday junkie, I love it all! I get insanely excited about the music and listen to it as much as possible, I wake up to it, I drive to and from yoga with it on the radio and I listen to it sporadically throughout my work day, at my desk! I cannot wait to really get into the thick of my gift shopping and we got the tree up this past Saturday after driving out to the country to cut it down. Last night I even took a break from all the work and I sewed some colorful felt bunting for our tree.

Honestly, if I had my choice, I would take the entire month of December off, not because I don’t enjoy my work, but more so I can just take it all in and savor every moment of the holiday magic. If I could, I would just go to yoga every morning and make Christmas gifts for everyone all afternoon listening to music and watching old Christmas movies and in the evening I would sit around in the dark with just the lights from the tree sparkling, drinking some delicious nog probably with a little rum in it, if I am being honest!

It's The Most Wonderful Time...
Speaking of nog, is anyone else as obsessed with So Delicious’ Coconut Milk Nog as I am? I cannot get over how amazing it is and I rarely get excited about things like this. Seriously, if you can find it, buy it and try it. It is only 90 calories per 1/2 cup and it is just as thick and delicious as the dairy version. I swear no one paid me to say this, I am just honestly obsessed with it. I wonder if I can make my own?

It's The Most Wonderful Time...

Anyhow, unfortunately for me, the month of December cannot all be Christmas songs, nog and crafting – our month is full of events, travel, lots of end of the year client work and tons and tons of shipping. SHIPPING!!! We just shipped off a huge order of our posters that we had with Urban Outfitters that was taking up every inch of our lives (yay – those will be in stores soon), plus 100 posters to Andrew Bird for his show in Minneapolis and we are shipping web orders from our site and etsy daily! I am certainly not complaining, I love it all and I am insanely grateful, but I am having to stay up late each night just so I can take in as much of the holiday spirit as I can, before it’s gone.

We are leaving bright and early tomorrow morning for Chicago for the Renegade Craft Holiday Sale, it runs Saturday and Sunday from 11am – 6pm. If you are in the Chicago area, you should come check it out, it’s an amazing event filled with hundred of vendors, all selling their handmade goods. It’s a wonderful way to support small independent businesses while buying unique holiday gifts. I get a ton of my own Christmas shopping done there with the other vendors, there is so much amazing stuff. The Hero booth is #65 on the first floor in gym #2. We will have a ton of posters and prints, greeting cards, pillows and more. Come see us!

Hopefully after we get home on Monday from Chicago, I will have a bit more time for cooking and baking. This week we were living off of our Thanksgiving turkey, I made an incredible gluten-free turkey pot pie and a creamy turkey, brown rice and sage soup. Sadly I will not be posting about either of these, as I did very little measuring so I have no clue how I would even write up the recipe and I made no time for photos. I guess I will just have to make them both again so I can share with you. Honestly though, the pot pie was so amazing I am definitely going to be making a vegetarian version with lots of yummy vegetables very soon, so keep an eye out for that. And also be on the lookout for some holiday cookie recipes when I get home and hopefully some other stuff, too. Hope everyone is enjoying the start of the holiday season and happy December to you all! See ya next week 🙂

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I didn’t get a chance to get on here Thanksgiving Day to wish you all a Happy Day, like I had planned but I was cooking away in the kitchen and watching the parade, the dog show and football! I hope all of my American readers had an incredible day surrounded by people they love most and filled with delicious and tasty fresh foods made with so much love and care. If you aren’t in the US – I hope you have a beautiful Thursday, still!

Our day was perfect, I spent the day cooking in my kitchen and relaxing with hubby, we really needed a day like that, then we headed to my parents to see a ton of family for dessert. It is going to be an insane few weeks coming up so I was very happy to have the perfect balance of a quiet and calm day, with a bit of the usual holiday fare with the extended family.

Of course the best part of making a big feast for 2, is that we have a ton of leftovers. This is so perfect since we are leaving on Friday of this coming week to head to Chicago – so finding time to cook is probably going to be tough. Besides just reheating things, I plan to come up with all kinds of fun and creative ways to eat up the leftovers. This morning I saw a post on the Kitchn with this very topic – lots of great and delicious ways to eat up those leftovers! One of the hardest things to just simply reheat are the mashed potatoes, they are never as creamy and delicious as they are that night! You could certainly make a shepherd’s pie with them or potato pancakes of some sort, which I had planned on doing until I saw this post. The Kitchn had this delicious recipe for Mashed Potato Puffs that caught my eye instantly. Their puffs included ham and cheese, though this was a bit too rich for me after the two days of eating that I just had, so I skipped the cheese and ham and just added a small amount of turkey and some fresh chives from my garden. If you had a vegetarian Thanksgiving, these would still be equally as delicious without any meat at all. These adorable little puffs were super simple to put together and ready in 20 minutes. We had ours for breakfast and we put the leftovers in the fridge for either a side dish or another breakfast. They were puffy, had a slight crisp on the outside and were perfectly soft and creamy inside. I almost always make my mashed potatoes as garlic smashed potatoes, which I add a smidge of Nancy’s Organic Cultured Cream Cheese to for a little bit of creamy and tart flavor. I make my smashed potatoes with red potatoes, leaving the skins on – so my puffs were a bit more rustic and chunky than the original recipe, which I really liked. They can stick a bit when coming out of the muffin tin, at least they did for me, so make sure you grease your tin, even if it is non-stick. I personally didn’t care about that little bit of sticking – they were delicious regardless.

Well we’re off to the country to cut down our Christmas tree today and then to walk around beautiful Elicottville to really get even more into the Christmas mood! I cannot wait!

Tomorrow I plan to make a gluten-free turkey pot pie with some of the leftovers and I am going to cook down the bones to make a turkey stock for soup. What are you making with your leftovers?

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Smashed Potato Puffs
makes between 12 and 24 puffs, depending the size of the pan used
Adapted from The Kitchn

2 cups leftover smashed (or mashed) potatoes
3 large farm fresh brown eggs, beaten
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/4 cup shredded leftover turkey (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease the cups of a regular muffin tin or a mini-muffin tin.
Whisk together the smashed potatoes, eggs, chives, and turkey. Taste and season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.
Put a spoonful of the mixture in each muffin cup. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the potato cups are set, browned on top, and hot through and through. Serve immediately.

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Gluten-free Mac & Cheese

For me this time of year was always about indulgence, eating, drinking and then more eating. Since I have changed the way I eat, I have cut back on all major indulging. It serves no purpose and both the guilt and the gross heavy, toxic feelings you have afterward, aren’t worth it. All that being said, sometimes you need something rich and decadent. This is about as indulgent as it gets for me these days! Homemade mac and cheese!

I have never cared for most mac and cheese until I started making my own gluten-free version, I found most to be way to heavy and dense. Made with a good quality organic brown rice pasta, organic butter and milk, high quality cheeses (organic if you can find them) and smoked pasture-fed bacon from our wonderful farmer, there is little that can compare. Though this is a bit extreme compared to what I normally eat, there is no reason you can’t enjoy things like this from time to time. The key to everything in life is moderation. I learned that after many years of extreme diets and extreme rules. Should I eat mac and cheese every week or even every month for that matter? Absolutely not. But, I make it a point to make this once or twice a year, I enjoy it so much more and I look forward to it. If made totally from scratch with high quality, organic and fresh ingredients, I believe eating things like this, once in a while, is still better than loading yourself up with those disgusting processed diet foods all the time! I am sure of that. I am able to maintain my 30 lb weight loss and still enjoy decadent things like this from time to time. This is what life is all about, don’t deprive yourself.

Originally I hadn’t planned to add the bacon as this was meant to be a side dish to a delicious roast chicken. However, when I went to pull the chicken out of the fridge, it was still very frozen so I decided we would just eat the mac and cheese as our main course with a bit of bacon on top and a side of sautĂ©ed spinach with garlic, and save the chicken for the next night. And we could still enjoy the leftovers later in the week as sides to other meals or for lunch. Bacon is another indulgent item that I don’t partake in very often, but since we bought our 1/2 pig from Sojourner Farms, I find myself cooking with it more than I ever have in my life. I think bacon is wonderful as an accent in dishes and in moderation. It has such a wonderful flavor and that crunch is perfect on top of a homemade mac and cheese like this. Obviously if you aren’t a meat eater or don’t care for meat on your mac and cheese, the bacon can be left off on this. That being said, if you are a meat eater, you can experiment with ham or prosciutto instead. Also, you can certainly play around with different cheeses, I have found that cheddar and Manchego are my favorite, but you can really use any combination that you like.

Gluten-free Mac & Cheese with Bacon
Serves 6-8

1 pound organic gluten-free brown rice pasta
1 stick (1/4 cup) organic unsalted butter
1/2 cup white rice flour
4 cups organic 2% milk
1 onion, peeled and chopped
Pinch or two of fresh nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Manchego cheese, grated (you can use 2 1/2 cups of any cheese or cheeses you like)
1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
3 slices of farm fresh smoked bacon (pasture-raised), cooked until nicely brown, crumbled or roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 425Âș F.

Boil, rinse & drain pasta according to directions, cooking until al dente.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat, add chopped onion, cook until tender about 7-10 minutes. Add rice flour, stir to form roux. Slowly add milk while stirring, heat until warm and thick. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Add 2 cups of your cheese combination, stir until melted. Set aside the other 1/2 cup. Add your pasta to the cheese and milk mixture, stir until well coated.

Pour the pasta and cheese mixture into a 9″ x 13″ pan, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, bacon and breadcrumbs. Add some fresh ground nutmeg. Bake for 20 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.

Gluten-free Mac & Cheese

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Flourless Carrot Cake

I am very behind on posting recipes right now. I still have recipes from Thanksgiving dinner, that I have yet to post. We are in the thick of one of our busiest times of the year. Our store is busy for the holidays, our web sales have been killer, we have two pretty big jobs on the books and we have been traveling to many different holiday events selling our stuff. On top of all of this, a week and a half ago, Buffalo got slammed with a really nasty snow storm that dumped about 3 feet of snow at our house in a very short amount of time. Our street wasn’t plowed for days and we were stranded at home. This all wasn’t so bad, except my husband Mark was supposed to be in Chicago selling our wares at the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale. And worst of all, our fridge and pantry were pretty bare, I had planned to shop that coming weekend. So, I couldn’t even make the best of the situation by baking and cooking. Needless to say, I have been craving to have a few days to just relax, sip on a cocktail or two and just cook!

I came across this recipe just days before Thanksgiving and I had still been looking for the perfect dessert option to bring to my parent’s house. I made a huge feast at our house beforehand for just Mark and I, complete with a pastured turkey from our farm and tons of healthy and gluten-free dishes. Admittedly, I had my hands full and didn’t get the best pictures, so I am unsure on how many of the dishes I will be able to feature this year (I still have to go through all the photos), but that just means I may have to recreate them again some time soon, so I can get them on here. Darn.

This cake was the perfect light finish to a day full of eating and it was so incredibly easy to make. I loved that it was naturally gluten-free and didn’t have many ingredients at all. It had a lovely spice to it, reminiscent of pumpkin pie filling and the flavor from the almonds was so great. It’s like this recipe was created just for me on the day.

Make sure to grate the carrots on the fine holes of your grater, or they’ll be too crunchy. For best results, wrap the cake tightly in plastic after it cools and serve it the next day. It will keep for five days in the refrigerator if wrapped airtight.

Flourless Carrot Cake
Adapted from Recipes for Health by Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times
serves 10-12

1 1/2 cups (1/2 pound) unsalted toasted almonds
1/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 large farm fresh eggs
1/3 cup organic raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated organic carrots (about 10 ounces)
a bit of raw sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle. Oil a 9-inch springform pan, and line it with parchment. Lightly oil the parchment.

Combine the almonds and the brown sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend until the almonds are finely ground. Add the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest, and pulse together.

Beat the eggs until thick in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with an electric beater. Add the organic raw sugar, and continue to beat until the mixture is thick and forms a ribbon when lifted from the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the vanilla. Add the almond mixture and the carrots in three alternating additions, and slowly beat or fold in each time.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Place in the oven, and bake one hour until firm to the touch and beginning to pull away from the pan. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and carefully remove the spring form ring. Allow the cake to cool completely, sprinkle lightly with raw sugar, then wrap tightly in plastic.

I realized in all the excitement of my first Thanksgiving dinner and sharing this dessert with the family, I never took a photo of the cake sliced, so I am doing something I never do and including a photo from the original recipe. The photo is what sold me on the recipe, so I figure it only fitting you get to enjoy it (and drool over it), as well.

Flourless Carrot Cake - Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
©Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

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