Grain Free & Dairy Free Double Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookies

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This recipe is adapted from James Trenda’s Ultimate Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. His chocolate chip cookies are my all time favorite. They. Are. So. Good. They don’t taste grain free or dairy free either. I tweak his chocolate chip recipe a bit by using coconut sugar instead of maple sugar and lowering the amount from 12 ounces to 10 ounces. I also just use arrowroot instead of his combination of arrowroot and tapioca. I’ve  tried different combinations of grain free flours, to no avail. And really, why mess with something so delicious?

The other day I was thinking about his chocolate chip cookies, as I often do…and wondering…what if I were to switch it up a bit with other tweaks and additions? That is where the double chocolate cherry chip cookies were born. The first time I tried, it was a flat cookie failure.

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With a few tweaks here and there, the second attempt resulted in a delectable chocolaty cookie with the surprise of cherry filled bites.

Double Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookies

Depending on size, this recipe makes about 18 cookies

2 3/4 Cups Chestnut Flour

1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon of Sweet Potato Flour

1/2 Cup of Arrowroot

1/2 Cup of Cocoa Powder

1/2 teaspoon of Espresso Powder or Instant Coffee Powder

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

1 teaspoon of Baking Soda

1 Cup plus 3 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (solid, not melted)

2 Cups of Coconut Sugar

3 Tablespoons of Full Fat Coconut Milk

1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract

2 Eggs

1 Cup of Dairy Free Mini Chocolate Chips

3/4 Cup of Dried Cherries

Measure the chestnut flour, sweet potato flour, arrowroot, cocoa powder, espresso powder, sea salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of your mixer, add the coconut oil and coconut sugar and beat to combine. Just until it comes together. Add the coconut milk and vanilla. Then add the eggs, one at a time mixing thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips and cherries and mix on medium low until incorporated.

Refrigerate dough for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 35o degrees.

Line baking sheets with parchment and take a spoon full of cookie dough. Flatten it out slightly with your fingers (sometimes it’s somewhat solid from chilling).  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

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Grain Free Cinnamon Date Rolls

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Living a grain free life is not an easy row to hoe. Existing on just meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit is fabulously anti inflammatory and healthy, but every now and then we need a little treat.

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Something that says comfort and makes the house smell amazing. So I’ve made it my mission for the fall and winter to try to come up with more grain free recipes that we can have on Sunday mornings, with company, on holidays, or just when we need a special little something.

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The reason I started this food blog is so that people could see that meals and snacks can still be enjoyable while being allergen free, organic, refined sugar free, whole, and healthy. You can find a large variety of recipes here that are gluten free, dairy free, and grain free. Some call for refined sugar but can easily be replaced with unrefined coconut sugar.

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And while I don’t recommend eating any type of sugar on a regular basis, or even grain or gluten free baked items on a regular basis, it’s nice to have a treat now and then that feels extra special.

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Once you have a handle on what types of foods you’re sensitive to, there really are so many different ways to work around those issues without feeling like you’ve had to give up everything you love. It takes a little research and effort, but that’s what you have me for.

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Enjoy!

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Cinnamon Date Rolls

*8 Large Servings

For the Filling:

1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Soy Free Butter

1/2 Cup of Coconut Sugar

2 teaspoons of Cinnamon

Pinch of Sea Salt

For The Crumble Topping:

1/2 Cup of Coconut Flour

4 Tablespoons of Sweet Potato Flour

2 Tablespoons of Arrowroot

1/2 Cup of Coconut Sugar

2 teaspoons of Cinnamon

3/4 Cup of Dairy Free Soy Free Butter

1/2 Cup of Pecans, chopped

For the Rolls:

12 Medjool Dates, seeded and chopped

2/3 Cup of Arrowroot

1 1/2 Cups of Sweet Potato Flour

1 Cup of Coconut Flour

4 teaspoons of Xanthan Gum

4 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

3 teaspoons of Cinnamon

2/3 Cup of Dairy Free Soy Free Butter

3 Tablespoons of Yeast

2 1/2 Tablespoons of Coconut Sugar

1/2 Cup of Warm Water

6 Eggs, separated

3 Tablespoons of Apple Cinder Vinegar

3 Tablespoons of Grass Fed Gelatin

1/2 Cup of Cool Water

Extra arrowroot for hands

*Turn the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling: Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth and fully incorporated with the butter. Set aside.

For the topping: Whisk all the dry ingredients and chopped nuts together. Cut in the butter. Set aside.

For the rolls:

Spray an 8 1/2 x 11 pan and line bottom with parchment. Set aside.

Measure the arrowroot, sweet potato flour, coconut flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and cut in butter. Set aside.

In measuring cup, combine the warm water, yeast, and coconut sugar, whisk and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites to soft peak. Add the egg yolks and quickly whisk to combine. Turn off mixer and add yeast mixture.

In a microwavable measuring cup, add the 1/2 cup water and gelatin and whisk. Heat for 20 seconds and remove. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle the gelatin mixture into the egg mixture. Add the apple cider vinegar and mix to combine.

Switch out the whisk for a paddle piece. Add the flour and butter mixture in three parts, mixing on medium. Add the dates.

The dough will be wet. Scoop dough out onto a piece of parchment floured with arrowroot. Flour your hands. Do NOT knead the dough. Separate the dough into 8 similar sized portions.

Taking one portion at a time, pat out into an oblong shape. Don’t overwork it or try to make it smooth. Take a small spoonful of the filling and spread along the length. Pinch both long sides together so that it looks like a fat, short, snake. Take both ends and bring them together forming a circle and pinch together. Place in the pan and repeat until finished. If you have leftover filling, place a dollop on the top of each roll.

Sprinkle the crumble topping over the rolls, cover lightly with sprayed plastic wrap and a light kitchen towel. Set on top of the stove (while the oven is heating) and let rise for 35 minutes.

Remove the towel and plastic and bake for about 30-35 minutes. I use convection which cooks faster. If you’re using conventional, start checking the rolls at 30 minutes and go from there. You want then “just done”, if they are over baked they will be dry.

They can be served room temperature or warm with a dollop of dairy free butter on top.

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Reaching Out, Authenticity, and Some Pretty Amazing Chocolate Crepes

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I’m thinking I need to have chocolate crepes for breakfast more often. When is chocolate not a good idea? Uhhhh..never.

I woke up  feeling like I can only guess what a curmudgeonly 90 year old feels like. Stiff and tired and brain foggy and grumpy. When I have those days, it helps foster more compassion for the angry old people I see in the grocery store. If only I could serve them all chocolate crepes and give them a hug and tell them, “I understand!”.

I contemplated staying in bed with a book  or a Netflix binge. But, if I’m not feeling absolutely terrible, I force myself to get out of bed and get moving. My friend Tamela and I talked about the levels of sickness when you have a chronic illness the other day.  Guess what, she’s not chronically ill, and she understood what I was talking about. I love that about her. Those “sick” levels either allow you to do things with your day or don’t, and it can be different every day. Some days, the hardest battle you’ll fight, is with yourself. But we’ll talk about that another time.

 I dragged myself out of bed and saw my husband off to work. He had to come back twice for things he’d forgotten. Seems we were both feeling a bit foggy. I logged into a group I belong to where I watched two videos by friends I admire very much. It’s an out of the box kind of support group, and the people in it, have been instrumental in my life in so many ways that I cannot even begin to list them. Let’s just say, they helped save me from myself.

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One video was recorded from London and one was live from L.A. The first video was about the importance of having a friend you can trust to unload all the things that are weighing on you. Someone who will just listen with love and understanding and no judgement. What you tell them doesn’t need to make sense to them or even to you, and you don’t need them to solve it, you just need to get it out there. Sometimes, we don’t really know why we’re in a funk and we just need to list all the things that are heavy. Your feelings may change a day from then or even an hour from that point, but right then and there, it’s important to have someone in your life who will be that listener.

The second live discussion was about the stress of feeling overwhelmed. How we often jump in with both feet a little too fast and a little too hard and end up frozen or not being able to move forward because the enormity of how we’ve chosen to tackle it, is just too much. Its OK to admit that you know. It was about stepping back and finding new ways to manage all the things on our plate. By looking at each task on its own and breaking it down into small steps and increments, we are able to alleviate that overwhelming tendency to have that “all or nothing” attitude. We all know when we are overwhelmed. We feel anxious, exhausted, grumpy, and want to run in the other direction and things rarely get accomplished like we’d hoped. We’re mean to ourselves about it. We feel guilty. You know the drill.

The reason I love my “support” group is because they’re real. Not one person is fake. We are all there for the same reasons. We are raw and honest and completely transparent and everyone respects it. We are all there to grow, to learn, to give support and get support, to become our best selves and we do that by learning from each other and by being honest. By being a  friend. By giving hope to those who have wandered off their path and feel lost. The focus is about peeling off the layers of “pretend” that this world insists we carry. With layers and layers  of pretend, you can’t get to know yourself or anyone else in a truly authentic way. You can’t reach out for support or give proper support. You can’t heal anything or be genuinely, deeply, happy when you are protecting yourself with layers of pretend.

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The coolest part about those videos this morning? They were personal stories from the people who were doing them. It wasn’t a tutorial on how they have the perfect life and have it all together and how, “you can too!”. They are both successful life coaches, successful, human beings. And guess what? They struggle too and they’re not afraid to show it. They aren’t afraid to reach out when they need it. That’s what makes them successful. And I don’t mean monetarily. I mean success at a healthy, happy, life.

My morning improved dramatically when I reached out. When I allowed people to hear how I felt. When I allow people to see the real me, the struggling me, me in all my forms, happy, sad, together, not together, it opens amazing doors into deep connection with others and true friendships. It leaves room for people to be authentic. To say, “Hey…ME TOO!!” And when people can say, “Hey me too!” there is less judgement, more room for sharing and support, and room for what I believe relationships are really supposed to look like. Authentic. Not always easy or comfortable, but always worth it.

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Authentic is my mantra. Even when I wake up and feel like a crippled curmudgeon and want to hide from the world. I don’t like people to see me sick or struggling, or even unhappy. But, that is life. There is no reason to hide it or pretend that it is anything different. I reached out this morning, I sought support and a kind word from true friends. It felt so good, I gave support too! Sometimes when you feel like you have so little to give, all it takes is a couple friends to remind you that it doesn’t take much to fill up the tank, even to spilling over.

Love is a healer. Kindness is a healer. Being your authentic you and setting aside the fear of what other’s will think, say, or do, is a healer. Guess what? I was able to peel off that 90 year old layer. I’m not as stiff, I’m not as brain foggy, I’m not grumpy at all anymore.

Reach out. Love you. xo

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Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Crepes with Peach Compote & Chocolate Coconut Whipped Cream

*Makes about 8 crepes. Serves 2 people.

It’s best to make the peaches first so they have time to cool. You can eat them warm too, but the whipped cream you’ll want to put on top of them will melt.

Peach Compote

About 1 1/2 Cups of Frozen or Fresh Peaches

1/2 teaspoon of Pumpkin Spice

1 Tablespoon of Coconut Sugar

Bring ingredients to a simmer in a medium saute pan. Turn the burner to barely just a simmer and allow the juices to mingle and thicken. About 10-15 minutes. Remove from burner and cool.

Chocolate Crepes

1/2 Cup of Sweet Potato Flour

1 Tablespoon of Coconut Flour

2 Tablespoons of Cacao Powder

2 teaspoons of Coconut Sugar

Dash of Sea Salt

1 1/2 teaspoons of Pumpkin Spice

1 Cup of 100% Full Fat Coconut Milk

2 Tablespoons of Water

1 1/2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

3 Eggs

Whisk all ingredients together in a deep bowl until completely incorporated (makes it easier for scooping) and set aside. Heat a crepe pan or non stick small frying pan on medium. Oil with a little dairy free butter. You won’t need to oil for every crepe.

Using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, scoop out crepe mix and pour it into the pan swirling gently to fill the bottom of the pan. When you are able to pick the pan up and loosen the crepe, it’s ready to be flipped (it’s a fast process, don’t overcook them!). Flip with a large spatula so it doesn’t tear and cook on the other side for just a few seconds. I slide mine out onto a plate covered with parchment. They won’t stick to each other. Repeat.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

1 Cup of 100% Full Fat Coconut Milk

2 Tablespoons of Cacao Powder

2-3 Tablespoons of Powdered Sugar (or whatever sweetener you like to use)

2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

In a stand mixer, whisk the coconut milk (I have to cover mine with a towel) until thickened. Turn off the mixer and add the cacao powder and the powdered sugar. Cover again, and whisk until incorporated, scraping down the sides once or twice. Add the vanilla and whisk until thickened. This can be made ahead of time too and lasts quite nicely in the fridge for 24 hours. The coconut water will separate a bit, but all you have to do is pour it off. Don’t stir the whipped cream!

Mixed Berry Tart with Goat Cheese & Coconut Cream

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I’ve been dreaming about and creating this dessert in my head for a while. Monday we celebrated America’s Independence Day so I had the perfect reason to make a special dessert. Not that I need a reason of course…but neither one of us like a lot of sweets lingering around the house as they become increasingly difficult to ignore.

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I’m very happy with the result. The flavors are exactly what I imagined in my head.  Believe me, I’ve dreamed up countless recipes in my head that didn’t translate well into real life, so when I get a perfect outcome the first try, I allow myself a little celebration and mental high fives.

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The only bummer was that it fell apart when I plated it. Only because I didn’t make it the day ahead and allow it to set in the fridge over night like I had planned. So when you make it, make it a day ahead and all will be well.

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My mother’s friend turned us on to a wonderful organic store just across the border in Idaho called Pilgrim’s.  When I was growing up Pilgrim’s focused just on supplements but now it’s turned into a very lovely health food grocery store. All the fruit on the tart came from Pilgrim’s and it was gorgeous. Not one yucky piece or under ripe morsel in the whole bunch.  It made me want to move right next door so I could wander around in there every day basking in the glow of what healthy produce should look like. They sell almost everything that Whole Foods sells, just on a smaller scale.  They also have a salad bar, hot food bar, and freshly baked GLUTEN FREE (can you believe it?) goods. It’s amazing and I think it’s well worth the 20 minute or so drive seeing that I typically have to go to three grocery stores in our own town to get what I need and it’s rarely very fresh.

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For the tart filling if you’re not bothered by cow’s milk dairy, you can use cream cheese instead of the goat cheese, regular heavy cream for the whipped cream instead of coconut milk, and regular vanilla yogurt (plain  will be too tart). If you’re vegan or don’t care for goat cheese, you can substitute the goat cheese with Diaya cream style cheese. You could also add pureed fruit to the filling for different flavors. You could make it a chocolate filling by adding cocoa powder to the yogurt and goat cheese mixture and maybe some dairy free chocolate chips to the filling. There are many options to fit different needs. The crust does have gluten free grains, but you could easily make it with a grain free cookie crust as well.

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Mixed Berry Tart with Goat Cheese & Coconut Cream

*For everything to come together properly, you’ll need to make the whipped cream ahead of time. The tart will set up more solid and plate better if allowed to chill in the fridge overnight or all day prior to serving.

For the tart shell:

1 Cup Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

1/4 Cup of Ground Buckwheat Groat Flour (I buy the groats and grind them in my VitaMix)

1/2 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

2 1/2 teaspoons of Pure Almond Extract

1/3 Cup of Coconut Sugar

1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Butter, cold

Measure the flours, xanthan gum, and sea salt into a bowl and whisk to combine. In a mixer, whip the butter and coconut sugar until fully combined and creamy scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the almond extract and the flour mixture and mix on medium high until combined and the mixture begins pulling away from the sides of the bowl.

Quickly press the dough into a removable bottom tart pan. Refrigerate for at least one hour until solid and chilled. Remove from fridge and poke holes throughout the tart with a fork. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until crust is a light golden color. Remove and cool completely. (I cool completely and then chill for 15 minutes in the freezer before adding the filling.)

For the filling: 

1 oz. of Goat Cheese (the log is creamier and softer than a brick of goat cheese)

1 1/4 Cups of Coconut Milk Yogurt (you can use store bought, but you may want to cut it down to 3/4 – 1 cup as mine is thicker than store bought)

Sweetened Vanilla Coconut Whipped Cream made with 2 Boxes of 100% Coconut Milk – 2 Cups (Chilled over night and then whipped into coconut cream with vanilla and sugar. I think the whipped cream is more stable when it’s allowed to rest and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. You could also make it a day ahead, then just pour off any amount of coconut water separation.)

Zest of 1 Lemon

About 3 Cups of Berries/Fruit For The Top Of The Tart

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, add the goat cheese and  yogurt and whip until smooth. Add the lemon zest and whip to combine. Remove the whisk and mixer bowl and gently fold in the whipped coconut cream. Pour into tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Top with desired fruits.

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Cherry Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroons

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Sometimes you just need a little something. Rather than eat my way through the pantry trying to satiate that “something” I’m craving, I just usually go ahead and make what I know will satisfy it.

These are bite size macaroons. This recipe makes 32 miniature servings. They don’t require any added sugar because the chocolate chips and cherries are just the right balance of sweet and tart.

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It all comes together very quickly so they’d be easy to make in a pinch if company showed up or if you felt like I do today…in need of a bit of something!

I’d say about 5 minutes to mix the dough, a few minutes to scoop them out, 18 to bake, a couple minutes to cool…that means you can have a delicious treat in under 30 minutes. A satisfying treat that ends up being lower in overall thigh growth potential than grazing through the pantry trying to satisfy the longing for what you really want.

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I love the crispy coconut mixed with the soft, tart cherries and the sweetness that comes from the chocolate. A perfect, satisfying, balance!

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Cherry Chocolate Chip Macaroons

2 Cups of Organic Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

1 Cup of Organic Unsweetened Flaked Coconut

1/2 Cup of Organic Dried Cherries, chopped

3/4 Cup of Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips

1/8 teaspoon of Sea Salt

1 teaspoon of Organic Pure Almond Extract

1 teaspoon of Organic Pure Vanilla Extract

4 Organic Egg Whites

4 Tablespoons of Arroy D 100% Coconut Milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.

Measure all ingredients into a medium bowl and mix well with a spoon or spatula until fully incorporated. Scoop dough out a Tablespoon at a time and bake for 18 minutes. Allow to cool before transferring from baking sheet.

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Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

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Yesterday was Memorial Day.

Evidently there’s a bit of controversy about it on the internet because some people get angry when people tell each other, “Happy Memorial Day!” I guess some people don’t feel it’s appropriate to express happiness for their freedom.

I for one AM happy to remember all of the brave people who fought for my freedom. It IS a happy day. Because without them, and their willingness to fight for what they believed in and for the freedom of people who can’t fight or don’t fight, our lives would look entirely different. I know people miss their loved ones who gave their lives, that’s understood. So while we mourn for those relationships lost, we can still celebrate their bravery and character.

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My mother’s father was killed in a motorcycle accident when my grandma was pregnant with her. Prior to that, he was a POW. He was missing for quite some time. Little did anyone know that he would come home only to be killed in a hit and run accident. Little did anyone know that her future second husband would be part of the first group into that POW camp to rescue him.

My mother and I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her father of course, but the man who freed him ended up being a wonderful father to my mother and her brothers and the  best grandpa I could have ever hoped for. He loved me dearly. He taught me how to ride a bike and he let me dig around in his tools in the garage. He took care of me when he fed me too many tacos and I threw up all night long. I got to sit in a rocker on the porch with him and take sips of salted beer during long, hot, summers. He let me ask questions. He was patient with me and always happy to see me. Their house was my favorite place to be in the entire world. I took afternoon naps on the couch with him and Punkin, their weiner dog. I got up when it was still dark to eat smiley face chocolate chip pancakes and bacon with him before he left for work in the mornings.

The best part about my grandpa was his character. I’ve never met anyone who rivaled it. He wasn’t perfect, they swore like truckers in the garage when he and his friends worked on cars together, sometimes he was a little prejudice. He was born in a different time and a different world.  He was real and not afraid to show he cared or to show he was angry or to say he was sorry. He loved “his girls” and I never once doubted it even when he got so ill with leukemia and it tried even his nerves of steel and made him grumpy.

He taught me what love looks like. True, imperfect, love. He and my grandma were a wonderful team. They worked together like a well oiled machine. Smooth and humming along. All parts working together to keep it whole. He worshiped her. He willingly and lovingly raised her three children alongside her and believe me, it wasn’t an easy task.  He was the backbone of our family. This man who rescued my mother’s father from torture and certain death. Amazing! I wish everyone in the world could have the opportunity to have a man in their life like that. What a different world it would be.

Without the bravery of my grandpa, my mother’s father likely would not have made it out of that POW camp alive, he was in very bad shape. I remember my grandma saying that when he finally came home he could only stomach ice cream. No one was allowed to touch him to wake him or to startle him. He needed lots of healing.

Imagine if none of that had ever happened? My mother wouldn’t even exist and neither would I. That series of seemingly terrible yet brave events, created an entire life for us.

I love how God always  has all the details worked out.

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So when I say, “Happy Memorial Day!” I mean it in the best of ways. And I am consistently reminded when I take the time to pay attention, that everything happens for good reason whether we understand it or whether it hurts initially.

We spent the early morning washing windows and tending to a few chores. The afternoon was spent on the patio in the sunlight and fabulous weather enjoying a lovely lunch of assorted goat cheeses, hummus, a cucumber and tomato salad with avocado, and two varieties of gluten free crackers. We found a new flat bread cracker that was delicious!

When I think about the abundance of that, I’m reminded of the story my grandma told me about how my mother’s father had made friends with a guard in that POW camp. The guard would bring him bits of bread and food and tell him when they were doing inspections so he could hide whatever he needed to hide. My grandpa and his fellow soldiers were always working on a plan of escape. That guard was also the reason my grandma finally found out through the grapevine on the radio and through letters from people all over the country, that my grandpa was no longer missing in action.  That guard relayed notes to someone who spread the news…wouldn’t it be fantastic to figure out who that was?

They survived on bits of bread and tiny scraps….a sharp contrast to the abundance we have. We have that because of the people who fought for our freedom. Imagine if we weren’t happy about that? Celebrating it? Then what on earth was it all for?

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We finished the day with a steak dinner and delicious dessert. Because in my family, food and gathering together and celebrations, always went hand in hand. My grandpa would have wanted us to celebrate the bravery of others. To remember and be respectful but not mourn to the point that we can’t celebrate the opportunities and doors opened that their bravery provided us.

This chocolate cake is AMAZING. Versatile for cupcakes, snack cakes, birthday cakes, trifles, or whatever you like. It’s incredible moist and delicate but holds together very well and is wonderfully flavorful without being overly sweet.

For The Strawberries:

Stem and slice 2 cups of fresh organic strawberries. Sprinkle with 2-3 generous Tablespoons of coconut sugar and set aside stirring occasionally for a few hours. You can also do it the night before and refrigerate them.

For The Coconut Whipped Cream

Pour 2 cups of chilled (overnight) 100% coconut milk  into a stand mixer and attach the whisk. Whisk on high (you may need to cover your mixer with a hand towel) until it thickens to medium peak. Add 2-3 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract and 3-4 Tablespoons of powdered sugar. (You can also use powdered coconut sugar…but your whipped cream will be a tan color. Or, you could add a couple teaspoons of cocoa powder and do chocolate whipped cream.) Continue whisking on high about 2-3 additional minutes until thickened and chill in the fridge until ready to use. Sometimes it will separate just a bit at the bottom after being refrigerated but it doesn’t ruin the consistency or taste of the whipped cream. Just pour it off!

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

*This recipe is grain free and dairy free. It will make two 8×8 square pans or two 8 inch cake pans, or 24 cupcakes. For this recipe I did the 8×8 pans and stuck one in the freezer for later use. One 8×8 pan yields 9 servings.

*This recipe is adapted from Satisfying Eats

Preheat oven to 350° line two 8×8 inch square pans with parchment and spray with coconut oil. 

1 Cup of Organic Coconut Flour

3/4 Cup of Organic Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

1 1/2 Cups of Coconut Sugar

2 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder

2 teaspoons of Baking Soda

1/8 teaspoon of Sea Salt

8 Organic Eggs

1/2 Cup of Earth Balance Soy Free Dairy Free Butter

2 Tablespoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Cup + 1/2 Cup of Organic Full Fat Coconut Milk (set 1/2 cup aside)

1 Tablespoon of Decaf Instant Coffee

1/4 Cup of Dairy Free Chocolate Chips or Chopped Dairy Free Dark Chocolate

Add the dry ingredients to a stand mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the coffee to the coconut milk and stir to dissolve. Add the eggs, butter, vanilla, and 1 Cup of the coconut coffee milk. Mix on medium to blend well, scraping down sides. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes. Add the 1/2 Cup of coconut milk  and mix on medium just until combined.

Bake for 25-27  minutes. Cool completely before serving.

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An Unforgettable Experience & Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

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A few weeks ago I went on the most amazing learning adventure! I belong to a kind of support group, a “tribe” of people who want to make healthy changes in their lives and help others do the same. The group was created by a licensed marriage and family therapist, but he is not your typical therapist and likes to approach things in new and innovative ways. About twenty of us did a 30 day video challenge. Others in the group who didn’t do the video challenge were also able to participate by watching, sharing their own experiences in relation to ours, and giving feedback. Therapists and life coaches were also involved and some of them participated in the video portion as well.

We were asked to do a 3-5 minute daily video and simply come to the table being completely authentic and genuine with whatever was going on that day or in our lives at that time. Happy, sad, mad, crying, excited, bored, sleepy, whatever was going on, the goal was to be completely authentic about it. Not as easy as it sounds. But…

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It. Was. Amazing. Very scary at first. Unsettling. Emotional. Cathartic. Life altering. Empathy, sympathy, and compassion inducing. Ground breaking. Healing. Unbelievably rewarding. Eye opening. People were raw and funny and loving and depressed and happy and in incredible pain and lonely and hurting and best of all, real.

It has changed my own life and the way I view life, forever. We all started off a little nervous and guarded. All of us at one point or another had to struggle with, “Why am I putting myself through this?!” It didn’t take long though before we could all see that it was turning into something inspiring and amazing that I don’t think any of us expected. My goal was to get something positive out of it and to learn about myself and others. It was a bird’s eye view of people’s lives and how we all deal with our choices and life circumstances. In order to open myself up to learning and understanding, I had to step out of my comfort zone and allow myself to be raw and vulnerable. Something most people avoid like a swarm of killer bees.

As the challenge warmed up, many of us began to notice patterns in our own lives. Things we thought we might like to focus on. Watching other’s videos and the feedback and support we all gave to each other was monumental to the change we all experienced. It was healthy, thought provoking, challenging in positive ways, it involved tools, love, support, and the utmost of kindness and genuineness. We all had the same goal, to learn to understand what it really means to be truly authentic and genuine with who we are and to place less worry and focus on what other people think.

When we worry too much about what others think of us or fear their reactions when we are genuine, we stifle who we really are, what we really want, and it changes the outcome of situations that we’re in, relationships we have, and most of all, it doesn’t allow us to live life fully. Because everyone in the group shared the common goal of authenticity, there was zero drama or nasty judgement of any kind. In fact, there never is in this group, it’s really quite something. We agreed not to share anyone else’s stories outside of our group. This created what the founder of the group calls, a “safe container”.  It allowed for vulnerability and honesty. It was incredible and I have made life long friendships.

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Here’s just a few of the learning opportunities I came away with:

1. Many of us look to others and how they treat us as a barometer of our own self worth.

2. We worry about our value based on what we can or cannot do to help others.

3. We put others before our own self-care, which depletes us of energy and in the long run causes us to feel resentment.

4. If we aren’t used to self-care, the concept of it can be very uncomfortable, but it is imperative to our own health and the health of our relationships.

5. By not caring for ourselves and setting healthy boundaries, we become a doormat to others and invite narcissistic, overly needy, unhealthy, and manipulative people into our lives.

6. Feelings of guilt and not putting our emotional well-being first, stops us from feeling true joy and fulfillment when we do things for others.

7. Our self-worth is NOT defined by others. I read a quote by someone somewhere once that said, “Worthiness has no prerequisites.”

8. You can say “no” without guilt. It takes a lot of practice.

9. We can take time for ourselves and do things for ourselves on a regular basis without feeling guilty or selfish because in the long run, we are then healthier and ready to help others.

10. We need to realize without proper self-care and a “healthy container”, we are unable to give of ourselves fully, and unable to receive fully.

11. We have the power to form new and healthier habits, and break negative patterns. It can be done in a healthy way with the right tools.

12. We should strive to be aware of our wants and needs, to understand them and stick to firm boundaries for ourselves, and to care for ourselves so we can fully love others.

13. We are of value, just as we are. We all have gifts, talents, and qualities that add to our life and experience with others, but those gifts or the lack thereof, are not the barometer by which people should be loving us or the barometer by which we should be loving ourselves.What the world teaches is the complete opposite of that statement. Ignore it.

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For a lot of us, doing things for others is relatively easy. The difficult part for those of us who are big “feelers” and “givers” is that twist of guilt every time loving ourselves comes into play. Isn’t it selfish? Shouldn’t I always put others first? Isn’t this where the treasure is? In self sacrifice for the greater good? There’s nothing wrong with loving people and taking care of others, but we need to make sure that the cost isn’t so high, that it ends up being an unhealthy type of love and care.

The ins and outs of life tend to get in the way of how we love ourselves and how we love others. Relationships can be confusing and painful. They can start off great and then all the sudden something raises your red flags. How you deal with those red flags, makes all the difference. Our tendency is often to ignore and overlook our feelings on a regular basis. We don’t like to face uncomfortable truths about ourselves or others. Issues grow like weeds and over time if they aren’t dealt with properly, they choke out anything good. Your gut instinct is important. The action you take can make a life changing difference in your happiness.

Issues over the years that aren’t worked out properly, family dynamics and dysfunction, trauma, making unhealthy choices for ourselves, and pairing ourselves in friendships, family relationships, and romantic relationships with people who don’t know how to love or can’t love in a healthy way, cause our own life containers to be cracked. So does not taking the time to care for ourselves and not setting healthy boundaries.

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Life with a cracked container doesn’t work because no matter how much or how often we try to fill our container with peace and joy and people and stuff…it all just leaks right out eventually. So what then? Find perfect people to surround ourselves with? Protect ourselves by not having relationships at all? Always strive to do the “right thing”? Strive to be perfect? Strive to pretend that we are infallible? Pretend we aren’t in pain when we are?

Do we think that is the key to loving others and ourselves? Pretending? Living an inauthentic life? Not being genuine in our feelings, words, and actions? Or maybe the key is being a doormat? If I’m a doormat, surely people will see how loving I am and how much I sacrifice…surely they will love me for that sacrifice. Right?

Wrong.

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We all have cracks in our containers. It’s a fact. The key is to take some time to get to know ourselves enough to want to fix those cracks so that we can love others properly, receive love properly, and embrace life fully. What if we could stop wondering why we are surrounded with dysfunctional people and circumstances, and start figuring out what functional looks like and how we can get more of it? Choosing functional over dysfunctional means we work to be fully aware of our choices and patterns and how significantly they alter and change our overall happiness. We must be willing to ask ourselves all the really tough questions and then do the hard work to map out a plan to break the unhealthy patterns in our lives.

Why have I been complacent? Maybe I’m just now more aware? Sometimes things in life stir this awareness. Is it fear? Is it anger? Am I being lazy in my relationships and sticking my head in the sand? What makes me truly happy? Why am I willing to live with the status quo? What are my healthy life tools? Am I being genuine with myself? Am I being genuine with others? Who is in my “tribe” and are they adding or only taking away? Am I afraid people won’t like or love me if I’m genuine? Am I afraid of disappointing people? What does loving myself look like? What does loving others look like to me and is it a healthy picture?

Is my life balanced properly? Am I relying on others to fix and fill my container? What ARE the cracks in my container and what can I do to repair those cracks and fill my container with  fantastic life experiences, love, and peace, and joy? Why do I think I can give in a healthy way to the people I love if my own container is leaking? Do I have unhealthy relationships/experiences that I am still relying on to fill my container?

Do I have a solid vision of what my healthy, filled, container looks like?

Pretending that we are happy with certain situations, relationships, friendships, and circumstances, when we really aren’t, only creates more cracks. Healing comes with authenticity. With looking at ourselves and our environment clearly. Pretending may feel comfortable initially because inviting change can be unsettling and difficult.

Unfortunately over time, pretending steals our joy.

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Some people cling to their cracked container. Maybe it’s because it’s what they’re used to and they’ve become comfortable, maybe it brings them the attention they crave, maybe it gives them a good excuse not to work on their own life stuff. Sometimes it seems the more damaged their container, the better they like it. The same negative life choices are made over and over again. They cling to it like it’s a trophy. An unhealthy, personal memento of past pains and grievances. I deserve these cracks! People have hurt me! Experiences have hurt me! I OWN these cracks! They make me who I am!

We are not our cracks. Our cracks hold us back. They steal our peace and our happiness. Our cracks are not who we are but are an indication of what needs to change so we can live happily, peacefully, and healthfully. Authentically us. The way we were created to be as unique individuals. Practicing self awareness is achieved by looking at the negative and positive patterns in our own lives. We aren’t stuck with a cracked container. It CAN be fixed and filled with the most amazing tools, experiences, and healthy forms of love.

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A good place to start? Stop trying to fix other people’s cracked containers. We need this tattooed in our subconscious. We can only do the work to fix our own container. Stop focusing on what everyone else is doing wrong. Oh believe me, there’s plenty of people doing wrong…but it won’t do you any good to focus on them. They have their own unhealthy patterns that only they can work out. If  you have someone willing to work with you, then great. If not, don’t let that stop you from working on your cracks!

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Once our cracked containers are able to hold great things without leaking, amazing change begins to happen. Our perspective changes. Do you really know what that feels like? To really and truly have your perspective change? To have the realization that nothing has changed except YOU and in that process your entire outlook on everything changed in a positive way even though…everything and everyone else stayed the same?

It will rock your world.

Just by changing yourself, working on you and I don’t mean “self help” crap, I mean truly getting down to the nitty gritty of patterns (relationships, choices, issues) and directing them in a different way …just by changing the pattern,  you and your environment will change. You may think, “Well, that’s easier said than done!” And you would be right.

Changing our environment whether it be ourselves, the relationships we’re in, our health, our jobs, our social circle…is not an easy task. But it can be done and it is worth the hard work.

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A healthy, fulfilling, life takes awareness and elbow grease and here’s a newsflash:

Nothing. About. Life. Is. Simple. The actual act of changing  your perspective and letting go of the past, your mistakes, other people’s mistakes, and patterns that hold you back… takes work and insight, and a lot of uncomfortable self evaluation.

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When true perspective change hits you, it’s all at once an unsettling, wonderful, peaceful, mind boggling, awareness, that will change how you look at yourself and others forever in the very best of ways.

A changed perspective brings new experiences instead of the old scratched record playing over and over again. A repaired container allows us to fill up with healthy, soul fulfilling, experiences and relationships and enables us to receive and give love and support to ourselves and others, properly.

What does your container look like? How will you begin mending the cracks?

We repeat what we don’t repair.

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The vision behind the “tribe” mentality is that we were not meant to do life alone without other humans. That we can repair and heal with the help of others in a non-traditional “therapeutic” environment. A tribe is a group of people who you can relate to. No one has the exact same story, but a tribe is there to support and everyone learns from each other’s experiences and tools. People are heard without judgement and when there is no judgement, and people are given support, tools, and healthy, logical, feedback, people feel free to share and it deepens connection and builds strength. This is possible because there is the understanding and acceptance that everyone struggles with life’s ups and downs. With a firm focus on being authentic and transparent, it opens up a new and refreshing level of support.

John Kim, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and life coach. He will have a book available in the beginning of 2017. It’s called “Transparency”. I’ve read the short version. It will open your eyes to the relationships around you and the choices you make. Keep your eye out, it will be well worth the read. 

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Homemade Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream

*This recipe is best when the cream mixture is made a day ahead and allowed to chill over the night in the refrigerator before churning.

1 Pound of Ripe Organic Strawberries, sliced

1/4 Cup of Organic Coconut Sugar

3 1/2 Cups (27oz) of Full Fat Coconut Milk

8 Organic Egg Yolks 

2/3 Cup Organic Coconut Sugar

Scrapings From 2 Vanilla Beans

Place the sliced strawberries and the 1/4 cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat until sugar is melted and simmer for 20-3o minutes until strawberries are soft and sauce has thickened a bit. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large saucepan, add the coconut milk, egg yolks, 2/3 cup of sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Turn the burner on medium-medium low and stir constantly until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. Do not overcook or cook on too high of heat or the eggs will scramble and the ice cream batter will be clumpy and taste “off”. 

Add the strawberry mixture to the cream mixture and pour into a container and refrigerate over night.

Pour into ice cream maker of choice. I use the ice cream attachment for the KitchenAid mixer. Churn according to directions and freeze to set.