Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

pumpkin cookies

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know how much I love pumpkin and any and all things related to pumpkin. So when Shreya of the Sassy Life contacted me and said she had a pumpkin cookie recipe she’d like to share in our cookie series I was all over it!

These delightful pumpkin cookies are easy to make and can be ready in less than an hour – maybe more if you have little helpers or like myself just get distracted easily. They are small, bite size and can be customized if you like your cookies crisper or more cakier, a little stronger pumpkin flavor or a little more spice.

Shreya’s original recipe calls for refined sugars, which have been adjusted here but they do not change the flavor or the result of this delicious cookie. Perfect for Fall, or a little pumpkin variation for Thanksgiving, no one will even notice that they’re vegan or sugar free unless you tell them.

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredientspumpkin cookies

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (I measured when solid if that makes a difference)
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegan/non-dairy chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the coconut oil with the brown and white sugar.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and pumpkin purée and continue to mix. The mixture will look pretty slick and oily at this point.
  4. Add the salt, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and flour and mix until just combined.
  5. Gently stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Bake rounded balls of dough on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet at 350ºF for about 15 minutes. Cool slightly before removing from pan. Move to a cooling rack to ensure cookies cool evenly.
  7. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 24 cookies

* For a stronger pumpkin spice flavor, add another teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. My cookies came out very puffy and small because I baked small balls of cookie dough. For flatter cookies, flatten the tops of the cookies before placing in the oven.

What’s your favorite fall cookie recipe?

Thanks to Shreya of the Sassy Life for sharing her recipe. All photos are from the Sassy Life.

Join us next week for White Chocolate Macadamia Nut – my most favorite – ever!

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Sugar Free Dairy Free

healthy oatmeal raisin cookies

There’s nothing like a warm cookie from the oven, soft and chewy as it melts in your mouth, it’s usually hard to have just one. For a while now I haven’t really been making a lot of cookies, partly because of time, but also because though delicious, cookies are not really that healthy. Full of sugars and flours, typically I would avoid them and make some other kind of sweet treat to satisfy.

But this Fall when the weather changed and it was time to feel all warm and cozy I really wanted a cookie. So i started exploring some of my favorite cookie recipes and experimenting with how I could adjust them to make them more healthy and still just as delicious!

And now you get to benefit from my experimenting and research! For the month of November I am going to be featuring various healthy cookie recipes for you to indulge in. Some of them will be my own creation, while others are from other fabulous healthy food bloggers that I have collaborated with. It’s going to be a month of treats and just in time for Christmas! Now you can contribute a healthy version that you’ll feel good about eating and sharing.

Today we’re starting with a classic Oatmeal Raisin recipe – as I have always loved these soft chewy cookies with raisins in them (in fact most cookies with raisins in them I thoroughly enjoy). The original recipe came off the quick oats package and had been sitting on my counter for months. With a little bit of tweeking I came up with this successful healthy oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, sugar free and delicious! (even taste tested by a close friend who loves oatmeal raisin cookies and gave it two thumbs up).

Healthy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 c. Earth Balance vegan spread

healthy oatmeal raisin cookies3/4 c. coconut sugar

1/4 – 1/3 c. honey

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 1/2 – 2 c. uncooked rolled oats (quick or old fashioned)

1 c. raisins

healthy oatmeal raisin cookiesIn a large bowl combine the Earth Balance, coconut sugar and honey. Mix until creamy.

Add in eggs and vanilla. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, sea salt and mix well.

Add in the oats and raisins, I like to add these in by hand and stir, as I find the mixer can chop up the raisins which I don’t want. Stir well.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in 350F oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, cool for 1 minute on cookie sheets then move to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Next week indulge in Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, courtesy of The Sassy Life (I can’t wait for this one as I love pumpkin!!)


Our Top 5 Favorite Fall Soups & Stews

fall soups and stews

One of the many things that is fabulous about Fall (it is my favorite season) is the harvest of all the wonderful fruits and vegetables that are available. Things like apples, squashes, carrots, corn, fresh pumpkins and more, abound in the stores and on the tables.

Not only are these abundant and delicious there is such an array of colors that I usually want to eat just about all of it. They do say you should eat the rainbow at every meal!

fall soups and stewsI also love this season as we start to have cooler days and bring out the warm cozy sweaters, start up the fireplaces and start to cozy up with our loved ones. And our bodies also naturally start to want heavier, heartier foods, warm and satisfying in our bellies, preparing for the winter ahead.

So it’s a perfect fit when we start to drift towards those yummy soups and stews, chilis and hearty meals, as not only is that what our body needs we also conveniently have an abundance of those foods fresh and at our fingertips. (This is no coincidence btw this is a natural rhythm of life as we are built to eat with the seasons, looking for the foods that are common and abundant in those seasons. This natural cycle of produce is perfectly designed to support our health and supports the body’s natural healing process. Think about how a fresh green salad can taste so good in the summer and is just what you’re looking for yet in the winter may not be as appealing).

I also love the variety in the recipes that come with these fall soups and stews, so many to choose from! And so many of them can be done in the slow cooker another bonus for those busy days when you just don’t want to think about what’s for supper at 5 o’clock.

Our Top 5 Favorite Fall Soups and Stews

Here are some of our favorite soup and stew recipes that we tend to drift to in the Fall (click on the names to be taken to recipe):

fall soups and stewsAutumn Turkey Chili – a hearty flavorful chili that has such a variety of ingredients in it. I love the addition of fresh apples and butternut squash.

Creamy Mushroom Soup – this recipe was an original submission in an issue of Clean Eating Magazine and is the best dairy free mushroom soup I have ever had. I love the variety of mushrooms and the addition of fresh thyme.

Butternut Squash Soup – a creamy flavorful soup with all my favorite Fall spices like cinnamon and sage.

fall soups and stewsBroccoli Cheese Soup – a classic creamy soup that’s perfected in a dairy free version. I love it extra cheesy so I’ll often add just a little bit extra!

Glorified Turkey – ok this is not really a soup or a stew but is absolutely one of my favorite fall dishes. Especially right after Thanksgiving when you have all those yummy turkey leftovers. The flavors of this dish are so simple yet so divine.

What are your favorite Fall recipes that you like to break out as the weather cools?

Back to School Smoothies – Peanut Butter

peanut butter smoothie

Peanut butter smoothies are a staple for my kids at our house. Even though I recommend changing things up and giving the kids variety, they go for days if not weeks in a row where they only want this smoothie.

I really like the peanut butter smoothie because it is a super quick and easy recipe – with simply peanut butter, banana and milk. It is a nice thick creamy smoothie that is high in protein, filling and a great way to start the day!

We tend to add in a few other ingredients to this smoothie like dates and oatmeal for a little added sweetness and nutrient boost. Dates are high in fiber and a good source of vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin A. They are also high in natural sugars which provide an immediate and sustainable burst of energy (sustainable because it also has the high fiber content).

If you’re not a peanut butter fan or have an allergy, it is easy to substitute any nut butter in this smoothie or you can use Wow Butter, which is a soy based product (but does have added sugar) that has similar taste and texture to peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Smoothie

1 bananapeanut butter smoothie

1 tbsp. unsweetened or natural peanut butter

2 c. non dairy milk (we like almond but choose your favorite)

2 medjool dates, pitted

1/3 c. dry oatmeal

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Serves 2

Coming up… the Classic Berry Smoothie

Back to School Smoothies – Apple Carrot

back to school smoothies

Mornings can often be a rush and a challenge to get everyone a good balanced breakfast and out the door on time, it’s one of the reasons I love Back to School smoothies. They are a quick, easy way to pack a bunch of important nutrients into one glass and start the day right.

If you’re like me you have a love – hate relationship with this time of year. I love that the kids are occupied elsewhere during the day and I can focus on other things, the golden late summer sun and promise of fall in the air. I do not like having to make lunches or get up in the mornings and rush out the door, I prefer a slower pace and making lunch later.

As a result I get up in the mornings with the shortest amount of time I possibly need to get us all fed and out the door (I can do it in about 30 minutes), which often means prepping things the night before and getting creative with breakfasts (this is also why I love overnight oats).

You know what they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day! and I agree a good breakfast sets you up for a good, productive and successful day. This is why smoothies are a great solution. There are all kinds of varieties and combinations so everyone can have something they like; and I can easily make them night before (in it’s entirety or packing the blender and adding the liquid and blend in the morning). They are also portable, so if we’re running short on time we toss the smoothie into a to go glass and take it out the door and no one misses breakfast!

Tips for Making a Healthy and Balanced Morning Smoothie

It’s important to make a smoothie your child likes but it’s also important to keep in mind IMG_1593these few tips to make it a balanced, filling and energizing smoothie.

  1. Don’t make it fruit heavy – make sure it’s more than just fruit and milk
  2. Steer away from the juice – use non dairy milks, coconut water or just water itself to blend your smoothie
  3. Add in some protein – things like chia, hemp and flax seeds are all excellent sources of protein and when blended into the smoothie are not even noticeable. This also helps you feel fuller longer.
  4. Add in some greens if you can – I know some kids watch what you do like hawks and if they see one green thing going in there they won’t drink it even if they can’t see or taste it! If you can, adding a handful of greens like spinach, will give them that extra boost for the day.
  5. Change it up – have a few smoothie recipes on the go for your back to school mornings. Variety is good and keeps kids interested. It’s also helpful as the seasons change and what’s available in season in the grocery stores.

To get you going and inspired, we’re going to share some great Back to School smoothie recipes here on the blog over the next two weeks. Today we’re starting with my Apple Carrot Smoothie, which is a beautiful use of many of the things that are currently being harvested (like the sweet delicious apples from our apple tree).

Apple Carrot Smoothie

3 applesapple carrot smoothie (2)

1 stalk of celery

2 carrots

1 handful of spinach

2 tsp. hemp seeds

Water or *coconut water

Put all ingredients into you blender and mix thoroughly til smooth.

Enjoy!

Serves 3

*coconut water is high in carbohydrates, potassium, magnesium and fiber. It has a sweet nutty distinct flavor so test it with your kids (a small sip in a separate glass) before adding it to the smoothie

And smoothies aren’t just for kids or breakfast! These are great for adults too and as snacks or a pick me up during the day.

Coming up next… the Peanut Butter Smoothie


Easy Healthy Chocolate Fondue

healthy chocolate fondue

Chocolate Fondue is one of those easy fun desserts or treats that everyone can get into. Dipping fresh fruit in chocolate (or other yummy things like rice krispie bits, cake, pretzels, marshmallows) is delightful and delicious.

A lot of people find though that chocolate fondue can be a little messy and a little bit too much of a sugar rush – with the chocolate burning if your fondue pot is not just right, or it getting too thick to dip in. Not to mention all the sugary treats you are dipping into an already sugar filled chocolate.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way – you can create a healthy chocolate fondue with the yummy treats for dipping (also healthy) and no burning or thickening of your chocolate. And it’s super easy! even the kids can do it.

healthy chocolate fondueYears ago I learned how to make raw organic chocolate, made from cacao butter and cacao powder, then naturally sweetened with your sweetener of choice. It is quick easy and very good for you. Cacao is an ingredient that is considered a superfood, as it is very high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron and zinc, vitamins E, B2, B1, B5, B3 and B9. And it is super high in antioxidants, healthy fat, fiber and protein. Plus when you use a natural sweetener you are now adding in the benefits of that natural sweetener as well (like honey, pure maple syrup, stevia).

You might think well I can just use cocao it’s the same – the fact is it’s not. Though both cocao and cacao come from the same bean they are processed very differently which is why one product (cocao) is stripped of most of it’s vitamins and minerals, while the other (cacao) preserves them.

When you’re making raw organic chocolate, you use a double bowl where you place boiling water in the bottom bowl and place another smaller bowl (that sits on the rim without falling into the bottom one) on top. You simply make your chocolate in the top bowl, using the heat from the water underneath to do your melting and create your chocolate. It’s like a double boiler method without using the stove and creating the risk of burning it!

Once you’ve made your chocolate, you simply keep it in the liquid form for your fondue (as opposed to putting it into molds or a pan to set), by leaving the top bowl on top of the hot water. Place it in the middle of your table or serving area and voila! you are ready to dip and indulge. You do have to be conscious of the lower bowl being hot though and advise those who are sharing the fondue to not touch the bottom bowl (especially important with kids). The chocolate will stay liquid as long as the water is hot and will not burn. As the water starts to cool, the chocolate will set, but all you have to do is add fresh boiling water to your bottom bowl and the chocolate will melt and return to liquid quite quickly. One thing to note is you do need to be careful that you do not get any water into your top bowl with the chocolate as this will ruin your chocolate, so just be aware of that when you’re moving things around.

Otherwise, grab your fork and favorite dipping items and enjoy!

Healthy Chocolate Fondue (this will make enough for 4-6 people and ready in 10 minutes!)

3/4 – 1 cup Cacao butterhealthy chocolate

2-6 tbsp. Cacao powder

1 Vanilla Bean

2 tsp. to start Natural Sweetener of choice (honey, pure maple syrup, etc.)

  1. In a medium metal bowl add boiling water about halfway up the bowl. *a metal bowl is best as it retains the heat well but can get hot to the touch Place second smaller metal bowl on top of large bowl so that it sits on top.
  2. Put desired amount of cacao butter into top bowl. Cacao butter will start to melt.
  3. While cacao butter is melting slice vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the inside seeds with a spoon. Put seeds into melted cacao, it is ok if cacao butter is not completely melted yet. Stir.
  4. Sift cacao powder into a separate bowl. Once cacao butter is completely melted add 2-4 tablespoons of cacao powder. Taste for desired level of chocolatey-ness. If you’d like it richer add more cacao powder.
  5. Once satisfied with amount of cacao powder add natural sweetener of choice. Start with 3 teaspoons and mix. Taste, if desired level of sweetness has not been reached, add 1-2 more tablespoons and taste again. Once level of desired sweetness has been reached you have your base chocolate.
  6. Leave in liquid form and bowls on top of each other and serve. Use pot holder or oven mitt to transfer bowls if moving to another spot.

*Be very careful not to get any water into your chocolate as it will not work if you do. If your second bowl sits nicely on top, this should not be an issue as you do not need to lift the second bowl off the one with the water in it until you are done making your chocolate. 

Items for dipping:

Basically you can dip whatever you want into your chocolate (some people love chocolate dipped bacon 🙂 Fruit is the most popular and the quickest to prepare as it is most likely on hand – but if you’re feeling adventurous or just want to change it up a bit try out these other options – which can be healthy and sugar free too! below

Fresh fruit of choice – banana, apple, orange, strawberries, pineapple, cantalope, etc.

Pretzelshealthy chocolate fondue

Healthy sugar free marshmallows (yes these can be healthy to! make your own here)

Sugar free cake bits

Sugar free rice krispie square pieces

Nuts

Make sure you have forks or other utensils to facilitate dipping without items being lost in the chocolate. Fondue forks work great but are not required as regular forks work just as well.

This is super super easy to do with kids and is always a hit. I did it with my Mini Chefs class, 3-5 year olds and they loved it! There were many chocolate faces that day and I did not send them home to parents on a sugar high.

I’ve also succesfully done this with adults many a time and I usually have someone licking the bowl at the end 🙂 The nice thing is you can make as much as you want and if you run out you just make more!

Ok I’m off to make my own chocolate fondue now… all this talk about it is making me crave some…

What are your favorite things to dip in chocolate fondue?

Blueberry Pancake Mini Bites

pancake mini bites

I really didn’t think a pancake mini bite would be a big hit. What was the big deal it’s like a small bite of a pancake and wouldn’t you rather have a whole one? But that’s just it! It’s a small bite of a pancake – and you can have just a bite not waste a whole one!

Now there are tonnes of recipes for pancake mini bites, from maple bacon (I am definitely going to try that one) and pumpkin chocolate chip to your whole wheat and more traditional pancake. I decided that a blueberry one would be a great place to get started.

I honestly whipped these things up in 15 minutes, they are super easy to make, and I adjusted the original recipe slightly – as I like experimenting! At first I thought they looked just like a mini blueberry muffin and that they would simply taste like a muffin, but they do not taste like a muffin at all and definitely like a pancake. Besides I don’t know how many muffins you are dipping in maple syrup!

These are also a fantastic on the go breakfast. Super easy to grab and take with you, more so than a regular pancake. They’d be fun in kids school lunches as well for a little variety.

Blueberry Pancake Mini Bites

1 c. flour (I used white the first time I made them as honestly I wasn’t thinking, but could easily use whole wheat instead to make them more healthy)

pancake mini bites1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. coconut sugar

1 beaten egg

1/2 c. almond milk (or other non dairy milk of choice)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan spread, melted

1/2 c. blueberries

Dash of cinnamon – optional

1/2 tsp. ground flax meal – optional

Pure maple syrup

In medium size bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and coconut sugar. In another bowl, stir together egg, vanilla, almond milk and Earth Balance.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. In a well greased mini muffin tin scoop a tablespoon of dough into each hole. Bake for 10 minutes at 375F or until slightly browned.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then gently remove bites from muffin tin. Serve immediately with a side of pure maple syrup.

Makes about 20 mini bite pancakes

pancake mini bitesThese are also easily frozen ready to grab later or on those mornings you’re a little rushed. Freeze in an airtight container with a piece of wax or parchment paper between layers.

The fun thing about these mini bites is you can basically take any pancake recipe and simply put it into a mini muffin tin and bake it. And if you want to play with shapes a little and make them round, you can use a donut hole pan, which is super fun, like little mini donuts.

And like anything, there’s so much variety for what you can do! Because I don’t know about you but even though I like the traditional pancake I do like variety every once in a while. It keeps things interesting.

Have a favorite pancake recipe? Share in the comments below

Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites – Dairy & Gluten Free

pizza mini bitesDefinitely my favorite mini bite recipe so far are these Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites. At first when I looked at the recipe I thought having quinoa in it was weird and probably not very tasty, but it turned out to be delicious!

The quinoa gives it a nice texture and does not make you feel that heaviness in your belly that pastry does. And it doesn’t take away or overtake the other flavors in the bite, it enhances and allows them to stand out.

pizza mini bitesQuinoa, considered a plant food, is also super good for you. It is one of the most protein rich foods we can eat, as well as high in fiber, iron, magnesium and many other vitamins and minerals. It is also gluten free which is great for those who are looking for or in need of that option; and even contains antioxidants. On it’s own, quinoa is quite plain but is a fantastic healthy addition in salads, baked goods, warm breakfast cereals and more!

These pizza mini bites really do taste like pizza and with the quinoa in them they are super healthy. I was amazed at how good they were and how much they actually tasted like pizza. And like pizza you can add in your favorite pizza ingredients. I used small pieces of pepperoni but you could easily substitute ham, add peppers, chopped up mushrooms, etc.

They are also fantastic for kids – they can easily help make them and they are a nice healthy option to put in their lunches or even for a snack. Yes you have to put in 3 or 4 but that’s ok this recipe makes a lot! They are even a great appetizer or snack for your next gathering or party.

Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites

2 cups cooked quinoa*

2 large eggspizza mini bites

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup Daiya shredded mozzarella

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 cup chopped pepperoni sticks (3-4 sticks)

1/2 tsp seasoning salt

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried crushed oregano

pizza or tomato sauce for dipping

Mix together all ingredients, except pizza sauce, in a medium mixing bowl. Using a tablespoon, scoop the mixture into a well greased mini muffin tin, filling each cup to the top. Press down gently to compact.

Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Gently remove bites from muffin tin and serve immediately.

These are also very good cold. So if you’re putting them into kids lunches or your own, there’s no need to heat them if not able to do so.

Makes approximately 40 bitespizza mini bites

*How to Cook Quinoa

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

Thoroughly rinse quinoa in a colander (make sure the holes are small enough that the quinoa does not go through). Once rinsed place in a small pot with water.

Uncovered bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes. Let quinoa cool slightly then fluff with a fork and either serve or use in desired recipe.

What are some of your favorite quinoa recipes? Share in the comments below

Miss last week’s mini bite recipe? Check out Dairy Free Macaroni Mini Bites

Mini Bites that Delight – Macaroni Bites

mini bitesI love mini bites! You know those cute little bite size foods that you pop into your mouth in one bite and are often bursting with flavor? How do they get all those ingredients into that tiny little compact dish anyway?

I had often wondered why people would want to take the time to make these itsy bitsy bites, other than the fact that they are cute and look pretty (and may possibly even impress your guests when you’re hosting a party). Making them looked like a lot of work and that I thought I would need to eat at least 5 or 6 to feel full.

Then I discovered how fun they were and came to the understanding that they are meant to be served as appetizers, which you are not supposed to fill up on anyway, and not full meals. They are also great for kids, especially ones who have smaller appetites as they can have one or two and feel full without having any waste – instead of having a bigger portion and not eating it all. It is also a great way to introduce new foods to kids as you are giving it to them in a fun way and again with the smaller portion size, if they do not like it the waste is minimized.

mini bitesAnd there are so many different mini bite recipes to try you’ll never run out of ideas. You can come up with almost any combination and likely be successful. So I’ve been on the lookout this month for mini bite recipes to try. Looking for combinations that I knew would work and then considering how I might create one on my own.

This week I started with macaroni bites, which are one of the more popular and common mini bite recipes out there, and usually a hit with kids. I loved this recipe as it has a super cheesy sauce and is simple to make. Also easy to make dairy free, these delicious bites will have you easily gobbling two or three!

Macaroni Mini BitesDairy Free (can be made gluten free if you use brown rice or other gluten free pasta)

1 c. elbow macaroni

2 tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Spread

2 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 c. almond milk (or non dairy milk of choice)

mini bites2 c. Daiya cheddar shreds

1/4 c. vegan cream cheese

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 egg beaten

Optional additions: bacon, cayenne, paprika

Grease well your mini muffin tin (like really well. This is the one downside of mini bites is those muffin tins, they stick and are hard to clean. Greasing it well does help but sometimes you have to scoop around them very carefully to get them out. If you can find mini cupcake liners you could use those and it would make getting them out and clean up a little easier. This may not work though if you want a certain look without the papers on them).

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse and set aside. In a medium size pan whisk the vegan spread and flour together until melted and smooth.

Slowly add non dairy milk and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add 1 1/2 c. of the cheese, vegan cream cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.

mini bitesIn a large mixing bowl carefully stir pasta, cheese sauce and well beaten egg until pasta is evenly coated and mixed in.

Using a teaspoon, spoon mac and cheese into prepared mini muffin tin, topping each with a small bit of cheese.

Bake bites at 400F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes, then gently remove bites from tin.

The first time I made these I made the original plain recipe but I felt that they were missing something. So I would highly recommend adding in real bacon bits, or a dash of cayenne or paprika to add a little zest.

These are also a fun and easy recipe to make with kids. They can easily help with mixing it all together and scooping the pasta into the muffin tins. Kids love to help and research shows that if they help make it they are more apt to eat it!

Don’t miss next week’s recipe Quinoa Pizza Mini Bites.

What is your favorite mini bite recipe? Share in the comments below.

Savor Signature Hot Chocolates at the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest

yyc hot chocolate fest

It’s here again! The YYC Hot Chocolate Fest celebrating it’s 6th year serving delectable signature hot chocolates in a friendly competition all over Calgary and supporting Calgary Meals on Wheels.

This is one of my favorite times of year! Savoring, tasting, testing and indulging in various signature hot chocolates, created specifically for this event. Whip cream, marshmallows, chocolate and caramel sauce; with flavors such as Marble Coconut, Maple Bacon and Theatre Hot Chocolate. Each dripping with flavor and chocolatey goodness. Every year I try to get out and try them all but since I only have 28 days to do it, it makes it pretty tough!

This year there are 77 businesses participating, doubling the participants from last year. That would mean that I would have to have about 3 hot chocolates a day for the entire month in order to have them all. I guess as a hot chocolate connoisseur it’s a must!

yyc hot chocolate festI love the creativity and flare in this competition as the businesses create their own signature hot chocolates. Not only with their combination of ingredients but with the names for them as well. Like the Light Cellar’s White Chocolate Matcha Kiss or Blenz Will You Accept This Rose? There are traditional or classic hot chocolates as well as spirited ones that have that little extra kick. And if you’re dairy free not to worry there are a number of businesses (not all sadly) that do offer a dairy free option which means you can also be in hot chocolate heaven. Can you imagine? Where to begin?

The event runs from February 1-28 and people are encouraged to vote and rate each drink they try which is then used to determine the winner for best hot chocolate. Social media feeds such as Twitter and Instagram runneth over with pictures and comments on all these hot chocolates. Not only luring you out to try it yourself but helping to spread the word about the festival. And some of those pictures… yum! I just want to lick the screen.

There are also prizes for those who try the hot chocolates. You grab a passport from any of the participating businesses and when you go to each vendor and have their hot chocolate they cross off their square. Submit a photo of your completed passport and you could win a fabulous prize pack – even if you’ve only had one. I’ve always been one to ‘complete the whole thing’ (it’s like a scavenger hunt) so I am totally into this.

yyc hot chocolate festI also love going around Calgary and discovering some of the local businesses and coffee houses. It is a great way to promote those little tucked away spots that you may not have found otherwise. And you discover some neat tidbits too. I was at Blanco Cantina on the weekend, who offer a lovely spirited hot chocolate, Blanco’s Chocoloca, and discovered that they are the second largest carriers of different tequilas in Canada. In fact, from where I was sitting the whole wall in front of me was lined with many different kinds. I would have never stepped in there otherwise (and this fact was actually very exciting to my friend who loves tequila).

It also takes you to a lot of places in the downtown area, which for me personally is not a place I go to that often, but again encourages people to go and explore your own city a little more.

I think my definite favorite so far is the Saucy S’more Hot Chocolate at Sauce Italian Kitchen & Market, while the Corbeaux at Analog (basil infused Lindt white chocolate) is a very close second. I don’t know if it’s that big dollop of marshmallow meringue, all that expresso chocolate sauce or the yummy graham cracker crumbs… but with this one I was literally in heaven. So good.

Still, there are many more to try and I only have one more weekend left to get out there! On my list is the Guiness Hot Chocolate at the Fairmont Palliser and the Citrus Ginger Orange at Monogram Coffee. It’s doable right? Of course I’d love to try more but I need the festival to be a little longer! Or perhaps they might deliver? then I could just line them up at my house.

So grab the fam this weekend and get out there and try a few hot chocolates, maybe a Parisian or Lavender Love. Take lots of delectable pictures to put on Instagram and vote for the ones you like the best! It’s a great way to discover what’s in your own backyard and support a local charity while indulging in some delicious hot chocolate!

yyc hot chocolate fest