Simple Sea Salt S’Mores

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These delightful little cookies are incredibly easy and have all the factors necessary for the perfect treat.

Sweet, salty, chocolately, crispy, and gooey. 

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They are best eaten on day 2 when all the flavors and textures have had a chance to settle down and get to know each other.

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Simple Sea Salt S’Mores

12 Ounces of Dairy Free Semi-Sweet Chocolate

1 Jar of Marshmallow Fluff (or you can make your own)

1 Box of Schar Gluten Free Honeygraham Crackers

Sea Salt

Roughly chop the chocolate and place in a double boiler, or use a pan and a bowl like I did. Heat the water on medium as to not melt the chocolate too quickly, risking overcooking.

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Remove all of the graham crackers from the box. With a serrated knife, very carefully and slowly, saw your way through each cracker.

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 Carefully spread a dollop of marshmallow fluff on each one and top with another cracker. I was a little too hasty with the first couple and snapped them when I spread the marshmallow. Then they accidentally fell into the melted chocolate and into my mouth.

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Oil a wire cooling rack and place a piece of parchment or wax paper underneath. Place each cookie on the rack and with a spoon, spread chocolate over the tops of each one and sprinkle with sea salt.

This part will need to go relatively quickly because the hot chocolate will make the lids want to slide off of the marshmallow fluff. So spread the chocolate and then set the cookie rack somewhere cold where the chocolate can set up. Check them after about 5 minutes and do any necessary lid adjusting. I set mine outside on our deck, but you could put them in the fridge or freezer as well.

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Once set, they will keep in a covered container on the counter for several days. 

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Cherry, Walnut, & Dark Chocolate Bites

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These are low in fat, high in fiber, and packed with antioxidants.

A perfect little snack for an hour of reading and a nice cup of tea.

Cherry, Walnut, & Dark Chocolate Bites

1 1/2 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

1/2 Cup Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

4 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

1/2 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1 Large Egg

1/4 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce

1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Walnut Halves, crumbled

1/2 Cup Dried Cherries

1/2 Cup Dairy Free Dark Belgian Chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine all of the dry ingredients (minus the nuts, cherries, & chocolate) in a medium bowl and whisk together. In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add the egg, applesauce, and vanilla, mix thoroughly.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixing on stir setting until just moistened. Add the nuts, cherries, and chocolate and mix on low until thoroughly combined.

Place by heaping teaspoons onto baking sheets and bake for about 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. I use convection.

*This recipe was adapted from Health magazines’ Supercharged Cherry Almond Cookies.

Fig Pillows & An Eye Opener

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Remember the book I told you I started the other day? Well, it’s packed full of all kinds of interesting information. I have only made it to Chapter 5 (there are 16) and I am already loving it. Much of the medical information I already knew or at least had heard of, but nonetheless, it’s all still very interesting. Xenoestrogen in particular. Lorraine Pintus, the author of Jump Off The Hormone Swing, refers to Xenoestrogen as Estrogen’s evil twin sister. “She looks like estrogen but she comes into your body from a foreign place.”

If you’re a male and you’re thinking this post isn’t for you, hold on a minute, because even though we’re talking about “estrogen”, it involves you too. Everyone is exposed to xenoestrogens through our environment. They are in the air we breath (chemicals, pollution) the water we drink (plastic bottles, pollution), the food we eat (non-organic foods, animals being given hormones and being fed GMO products), and the products we use (anti-aging creams, lotions, cleansing products, makeup, laundry detergents).

Lorraine says everything from diabetes to infertility are being linked to the “evil twin sister”. Also, many women who suffer from sever PMS and perimenopause symptoms are estrogen dominant. Xenoestrogens are a big part of that dominance problem.

If you would like to learn more about xenoestrogens in particular,  here are a couple more websites. Or, you can just Google “Xenoestrogens” and you’ll find all kinds of information.

http://flowinghealth.org/xenoestrogen_patient_handout.pdf  http://endojourney.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/a-list-of-xenoestrogens/ .

So, without getting completely obsessive and hyper about it, let’s look at it logically. Lorraine uses the 80/20 rule, which I think is a great idea. 80% of the time we can pretty easily control what we use, how we use it, what we eat, and what we are exposing ourselves to. If you leave your house, which we all do, then it makes a lot of sense that 20% of the time, you can’t control it, nor should you worry about it. Life is meant to be enjoyed. So approach this with the attitude of, I’m going to take control of what I put in and on my body and expose myself to, as much as possible. A little awareness and action is better than none.

Lorraine lists a website in her book with a database of all of the common cosmetics, cleansers, and lotions we use. What’s so cool about that you might ask? Well it has a number rating for each item based on how toxic it is. Yep. And let me tell you, it was an eye opener. Even the “natural” things you are buying might shock you. The ratings include reproductive organ toxins as well as cancer toxins, allergies & immunotoxicity, and overall health hazards.   http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Here is a quick look at their toxin number rating system:

0-2 Low Hazard          3-6 Moderate Hazard          7-10 High Hazard

Just to give you an idea, here is a list of things that I use on a regular basis that I researched on their website and their toxicity number level:

Organix Shampoo & Conditioner  = 4-5

Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser = 5

Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub = (new on the market, not listed yet)

Dessert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil = 0

Yes To Cucumbers Sensitive Skin Calming Night Cream = 2

Kiss My Face Olive & Aloe Lotion (I use it for body lotion) = 5

Colgate Optic White (They didn’t have the specific one, but all of the other whitening toothpastes are the same score) = 5

Bare Minerals Foundation in Medium = 2 

Bare Minerals Mineral Veil SPF25 = 7

Bare Minerals Blush = 2

Bare Minerals Eye Shadow = 4

Almay Line Smoothing Concealer for the Eye = 9

Maybelline Lash Stiletto = 4

(If you have trouble looking up your specific item, just type in the brand name click on the brand, go to the left and click on what item it is..and then scroll down the list to see if it is rated.)

So, before you go gather all of your toiletries and cosmetics to check how awful they are for you, remember the goal is to minimize your exposure to unhealthy things, because truthfully, it is impossible to avoid them 100%.

When you’re finished looking everything up  you can go to the upper tool bar on the website and click on whatever you like to find lists of products from different companies that are non toxic. You can order them online, or print them out to see if you can find them locally.

And just in case you aren’t freaked out enough by the toiletries you’re using, here’s another website she listed so you can look up all of the chemicals in the other every day products you use.

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/

*But even before you do that, you may want to self medicate with a nice cup of soothing tea and my Fig Pillows. Because we all know that pie crust pretty much makes anything better.

Fig Pillows with Fig Glaze & Almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

*Makes 30

2 Portions of Gluten Free Pie Dough

GF Flour For Dusting & Rolling

Trader Joe’s Fig Butter

Powdered Sugar

Almond Milk

Pure Almond Extract

Raw Almonds, finely chopped

Roll out one portion of dough and slice into 30 squares with a sharp knife.

Add about a teaspoon of the fig butter to each square. Then, roll out the second portion of dough and slice into 30 squares.

Using a flat knife (I use a frosting spatula), take one square of plain dough, pat it out just a little with your fingers.

Take the patted out piece of dough and cover the fig jam carefully pressing down around the sides. Score each side with a fork, poke once in the middle so air can escape, and place the fig pillow on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue with the remainder of the dough until they are finished.

Bake in a preheated oven for 22 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.

While the cookies are cooling, make a glaze with the powdered sugar, fig butter, almond milk, and pure almond extract (about 1/2 tsp.), and finely chop about 1/4 cup raw almonds.

Leaving the fig pillows on the cooling rack, drizzle with glaze and sprinkle with nuts.

Gingerbread Snowflakes

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Why not gingerbread men? Well, I did bake gingerbread men, and then came to the realization very quickly that I am nowhere near artistic enough to decorate them. Trust me, I tried. My husband was even sweet enough to come into the kitchen and reassure me by saying they were “fine” and “unique”. So now they are in a plastic bag ready for munching by people in the privacy of our own home, who don’t care what they look like.

I have to say that I do love the snowflakes though. Thought they turned out pretty well for a mother who raised a child who got in trouble the first month of  first grade for drawing stick people, (which his mother taught him to draw!). Evidently the crazy person they called “teacher” thought he should be more artistically advanced.  You’ll be happy to know though, that I handled it very nicely and appropriately instead of yanking her hair and drawing a stick figure on her forehead  like I wanted to.

Hmmm..how quickly a sweet blog about gingerbread can turn in a totally different direction…

Anyhoo. The gingerbread is delicious. And although I truly do not have an artistic bone in my body, the decorative part didn’t turn out half bad.

Gingerbread Snowflakes

**The dough needs to be refrigerated overnight before rolling and baking**

Preheat an electric oven to 375 degrees / convection oven 350 degrees

1 Cup Shortening

3 1/2 Cups Mama’s Almond Blend Flour (plus more for rolling)

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Molasses

2 Eggs

2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

2 teaspoons Xanthan Gum

1 Tablespoon Freshly Grated Ginger Root

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cloves

In a heavy-duty mixer beat shortening to fluff for about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add half the flour, all of the sugar, molasses, egg, vinegar, baking powder, xanthan gum, grated ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat until thoroughly combined. Add remaining flour slowly and beat until combined.

Divide dough into 3 discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour your rolling surface, roll out one disc at a time and cut into desired shapes.

Electric Oven – Bake 6 minutes or until edges are just slightly browned

Convection Oven – Bake 8 minutes

Remove to cooling racks and cool completely before decorating

Pecan Pie Bars

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I just realized I’m on a bit of a pecan kick today. First the haystacks and now these bars. Kind of funny actually because I didn’t like nuts growing up in my food at all. My Grandma always said “your tastes will change as you get older” and I guess she was right. Although, I seem to remember her telling me that when I would wrinkle my nose because she was making some kind of horrible smelling creamed fish for dinner. Luckily, my tastes haven’t elevated to that level.. But overall, she was right. My tastes have dramatically changed, especially over the past five or so years.

These pecan bars are perfect. Well, perfect in my eyes anyway. I never liked pecan pie growing up because I didn’t like all the filling. I preferred a little filling with a lot of crust. The original recipe for these bars came from Recipezaar and had gluten and dairy (of course). I tweaked it a lot to get it to my liking. Now it has the perfect amount of crust verses filling and comes in the form of a handy little bar and not a mushy pie with too much filling and not enough crust. These bars also freeze very well for use later. They are also quite tasty straight from the freezer. They don’t freeze completely solid so you can grab one whenever you like.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 9×11 baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

For the Crust:

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

2 1/2 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

1 Cup Dairy Free Butter (I use Soy Free Earth Balance)

Place all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk. Add the butter and cut in. (I use my fingers and crumble the mixture through them until it is broken down into large pea size pieces.)

Pour mixture into the greased pan and pat down until it is firm and forms a crust. I use parchment or a plastic bag sprayed lightly with non-stick spray. You can also use your hands but when the butter warms it will stick and be very frustrating.

Bake crust in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until edges begin to lightly brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare the topping:

2 Large Eggs plus 1 Egg White

1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

3/4 Cup Sugar

3/4 Cup Dark Karo Syrup

1 1/4 Cups Pecan Halves, roughly chopped

Place all ingredients except the chopped pecans in a large bowl and whisk well until combined. Add nuts, whisk.

When the crust is done, remove from oven and pour pecan mixture over the hot crust.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

Toasted Coconut and Pecan Haystacks

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Chocolate, toasted pecans, toasted coconut. Absolute yummy goodness. Enough said.

Toasted Coconut and Pecan Haystacks

8oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Squares (they are dairy free)

About 1 cup Shredded Sweetened Coconut

About 3/4 cup Finely Chopped Pecans

Melt chocolate in a double broiler or in a bowl over a pan of hot water until smooth. While chocolate is melting, toast pecans in a medium-hot skillet. Be careful, they go from toasted to burnt in a nano second. Set pecans aside to cool slightly and toast the coconut in the same skillet. Toss frequently so it doesn’t burn. Pour coconut into melted chocolate, pour almost all of the pecans into the melted chocolate. Stir until completely combined and spoon (tablespoon) onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment. I got about 16 pieces out of it. Sprinkle with a little bit of un-toasted coconut and the remaining nuts. Pop them in the freezer just until set. Store in an airtight container…if they last that long.

Clementine Carrot Cookies

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I have been searching for this recipe for more than 10 years. My mom used to make a cookie similar to this when I was young and it was so good! Smelled good, looked good, and tasted heavenly. The last time I remembered eating them I was in grade school, what, about 38 years ago? I still can remember everything about them and even recall the wonderful orange scent. However… she couldn’t remember the cookie when I asked about the recipe. Thus began my search for the infamous “orange” cookie recipe. I was recently going through some of my Grandma’s old cookbooks and ran across a carrot cookie recipe. You know, those “old lady” cook books where all of the ladies gather together in a community or a church and make their own cook books? Don’t scoff, they may not be Martha Stewart recipes, but I have run across some amazing jewels in those inexpensive little cook books. Plus, most of the recipes are tried and true family gems that have been passed down for generations.

The recipe called for carrots, orange extract, and grated orange peel…could it be? Have I finally found the recipe or something similar to it? I of course had to de-gluten them and then add some other things because I didn’t have orange extract. Once they started cooking they certainly smelled like the lovely orange cookie I remember… I immediately ate one when I took them out of the oven and realized my 10 plus years search had finally come to an end. Absolute heaven in the form of a cookie.

Here is the original recipe:

Carrot Cookies by Mrs. J.T. Byers

2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. shortening

3/4 c. sugar

1 c. grated raw carrots

1/2 tsp. orange extract

1 tsp. grated orange rind

1 egg, well beaten

And here is my recipe, de-glutened and with some additions:

Clementine Carrot Cookies

2 Cups Mama’s Almond Flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 Cup Shortening

3/4 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Grated Raw Carrots

2 Tablespoons of Grated Clementine Rind (about three)

1 teaspoon Clementine Juice (reserve the remainder of the juice for frosting)

1 egg

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Powdered Sugar

Reserved Clementine Juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum in a medium bowl and set aside. In a mixer cream the shortening and sugar scraping down the sides once or twice.  Add Carrots, rind, juice, and egg. Mix until thoroughly combined. It will be a gorgeous orange color.

Next, with mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients, and then mix on medium until thoroughly combined scraping down bowl once. Don’t over mix.

Drop by teaspoons onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes and remove to a rack to cool. While cookies are baking, pour powdered sugar into a small bowl and slowly add the reserved clementine juice. Whisk until it is thoroughly combined and is of drizzling consistency. Not too runny, about what I would call medium thick.

Wait for cookies to cool and then drizzle with a little frosting.