Kids Healthy Cooking – Healthy Chocolate with Natural Sweeteners

healthy chocolateKids and chocolate. They go together well. All the memories of chocolate covered faces, whether from ice cream or pudding or just a good old fashioned chocolate bar. Yes they say too much chocolate is not good for you, but honestly there is such a thing as healthy chocolate.

A lot of the trouble with chocolate is the amount of sugar in it, but chocolate without sugar and natural sweeteners instead, is a different story. Chocolate itself is rich in antioxidants and is actually very good for us. It is the sugar that is the problem.

When I learned to make my own healthy chocolate, I was surprised at how quick and easy it was. It was so easy that I came home and made it with my oldest son, who at the time was only 6. Four simple ingredients gave us our base chocolate, and then we could create whatever we wanted. He loved it! and wanted to make more. Now my twins who are also 6, love making it as well. It is so easy to make with kids.

So when it came to our last class of Mini Chefs, making healthy chocolate was really a no brainer. I wanted a nice sweet, fun, but healthy treat, so this was perfect. In class, we made the plain chocolate and kept it in liquid form for fondue, dipping a variety of fruit into it; such as apples, oranges and bananas. All of the kids loved it! And yes ended up with chocolate faces 🙂

Raw Organic Chocolate

Ingredients:

Cacao butterhealthy chocolate

Cacao powder

1 vanilla bean

pure maple syrup or honey

*amounts depend on how much chocolate you want to make

Boil water in kettle. Pour boiled water into a large metal bowl, place second smaller metal bowl on top of large bowl so that it sits on top. Place cacao butter into top bowl. Cacao butter will start to melt. 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.

*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. 

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. 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. This can now be kept liquid and used as a fondue, or can be poured into chocolate molds to form chocolates.

Another option at this point is to add additional ingredients such as nuts, dried fruit, coconut, essential oils (ensure that the essential oils you are using are safe to ingest), etc and pour onto a cookie sheet to let set. Chocolate is best set in freezer but may also be set in fridge.healthy chocolate

I had also been promising the kids we would make ice cream for a number of classes and many of them kept asking when we were going to make it. Since it was the last class we did make peanut butter ice cream as well. Sugar free, dairy free and super easy to make with kids. Look for the peanut butter ice cream recipe in the next kids healthy cooking post.

Energy Bites – Easy Healthy Snacks for Kids

energy bitesEnergy bites are a very easy and quick snack that are not only delicious but full of nutrition. They are one of those great recipes that you can basically put anything in them that you like, and they are great to make with kids.

They are easy because you simply put all your ingredients into a bowl and mix together. You then roll them into balls and freeze them for 10 minutes. Done!

The kids in my Mini Chefs really enjoyed making these. There were lots of things to measure and put in, and no one turned up their nose at any of the ingredients. They loved it because they all got a chance to mix and roll their own ball, which was a bit of a sticky process. It didn’t matter to them, as they were really excited to try them out. Even my pickiest eater was licking her fingers after rolling her energy bite – already expressing how much she loved it. I was super pleased! (I had been working hard to find something that this child would enjoy that was really good for her) In fact, when we sat down to eat them she had 3. Yes! Success.

energy bitesNow the original recipe calls for peanut butter, but being in a peanut-free facility we used WOW butter, made from non-GMO soy and allergen free (dairy, gluten, egg) it is a great alternative if needed. It does contain sugar, so not so great if you are avoiding added sugars as well. I can vouch that it tastes just like peanut butter and the kids in the class had no idea whatsoever. It looked and tasted the same to them.

Energy bites are a perfect easy on the go snack, as you can make up a batch ahead of time and just grab them when you need that extra boost. There are also many variations on these balls, you can even create your own adding in or removing whatever you like. Things such as raisins, dried fruit, nuts, cacao powder are just a few of the things you could add in. Once you have the basic recipe that sticks together the options are endless.

Energy Bites

1 c. dry oatmealenergy bites

2/3 c. shredded coconut

½ c. peanut butter (WOW butter is a great non-nut option)

½ c. ground flax seed

½ c. cacao nibs

1/3 c. honey

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tsp. vanilla

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Once thoroughly mixed take approx. 1 teaspoon and roll into a ball – dough will be sticky. Place ball onto a cookie sheet. Continue rolling until all dough has been used. Place balls into freezer for 10 minutes or until firm. Take out and enjoy!

Once frozen balls can be stored in an airtight container and are great quick grab and go snacks.

Makes 20-25 balls

Next week our last class and it’s a good one! We make chocolate and peanut butter ice cream…

What Parents wouldn’t do for their Child’s Birthday – Make Healthy Sugar Free Jello

sugar free jelloI love birthdays. They are fabulous days to celebrate people, how much we love and appreciate them and how happy we are to have them in our lives. Celebrating kids birthdays are some of the best, as they can be super fun and creative.

There are so many themes, games, crafts and activities to do around a kids birthday and I personally love a good theme. I get really into it, creating details from the cake right down to the decorations.

The one thing that is part and parcel of a birthday is of course, the cake. It is a tradition that has been around for centuries and one I honestly feel is just wrong if absent on a birthday (I hear in Sweden they start birthdays with cake for breakfast – they know what they’re doing). I have always loved the idea of a cut up cake, or a theme cake, something more than your traditional round or square. The designs, the colors, the creativity. My Mom made them for us growing up and well, even though my Mom warned me not to, I continued that tradition with my children.

sugar free rice krispie squares

Homemade Marshmallows

So for the twins, who just recently turned 6, we had a Minecraft and an Elsa cake this year; which I thought would be fairly simple. And well, once I figured out what I was doing, and all the pieces I needed, they were.

Because we chose a number of years ago to go sugar free this has created some challenges in creating things like a sugar free birthday cake. The cake itself was easy enough to do but it was the decorating, the icing and other accessories that made it interesting. This year for Luke’s Minecraft cake we discovered a design that was pretty simple in itself but required Jello and Rice Krispie squares – which I had yet to figure out how to make sugar free jello or sugar free rice krispie squares. I had some ideas on how to do this but had not made them before.

The Rice Krispie squares were easy enough. A couple of years ago I discovered a recipe sugar free rice krispie squareson Wellness Mama to make marshmallows, so I simply made that recipe and then mixed in the gluten free rice krispies right away while the marshmallow cream was still soft (at one point I thought I would have to make the marshmallows let them set then melt them down…luckily my rational brain kicked in and realized that they would already be soft before they set and I could just mix it all together right away). Once it was mixed in I just pressed the rice krispies into a pan like I usually would. They turned out quite well, though not as sweet as an original Rice Krispie square, which I think was largely due to the gluten free cereal which is not as sweet to start with; otherwise they were great.

The Jello was a little more of a challenge and this was simply because of the color I needed. Jello in itself is easy you use plain gelatin add water and let it set. But when you’re using natural fruit juice as a base and trying to make blue… Did you know there is no natural fruit that creates the color blue? You might think what about blueberries? Nope purple. Red cabbage is as a natural food dye, also purple. I even Googled it to see if I could find anything. No luck.

sugar free jelloEventually I found somewhere, the idea of using white grape juice and then adding a drop or two of blue food coloring. Though I would have prefered not to use the artificial food coloring I thought how much work did I want to do for this Jello. I decided a drop or two would be ok. So I found a natural Jello recipe on Wellness Mama (the same site for the marshmallows) and had it made setting in the fridge in about 5 minutes. Easy.

It tasted great too. In fact I prefered the Jello to the Rice Krispie squares. With this Jello though you have to like white grape juice, which some people don’t. I find it is a distinct taste that you either like or don’t. With my kids, Chloe loved it and Luke did not. The great thing is that unless you are making an odd color of Jello, like blue, you can find fruit juice out there that will give you the color you need without adding any food coloring. Like I wish I had needed red, easy! raspberry, cherry, cranberry

In general, I was really pleased with how these turned out and how the cake turned out in the end. It looked great and tasted good, with the finishing touches being the Minecraft figures on top, which thankfully Luke got from Gran for his birthday and was quite happy to put on top (I was going to sit down and draw and design these things). Luke was really pleased with the result and everyone ooed and awed over the cake when they saw it. That’s the kind of reaction that I like, and what makes it worth it. Now Chloe’s Elsa cake this year… that is another story…

Sugar Free Jello

1 1/2 cups of white grape juicesugar free jello

1/4 c. cool water

1/4 c. hot water

1 tbsp. grain fed gelatin powder

1-2 drops of blue food coloring (number of drops depends on how deep a blue you want)

Pour the cool water in a large mixing cup or quart sized mason jar and add the gelatin powder. Stir until mixed- it will start to thicken a lot. Add the ¼ cup of really hot water and stir to mix- it should be thinner now. Combine this with the juice and mix well. Pour the jello mixture into an 8×8 dish. Put in the fridge, covered, for at least 2-3 hours or overnight and serve. Cut into cubes or scoop out with a melon spoon to make cute shapes.
Serves 4-6

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

IMG_6830I woke up Christmas morning this year feeling very excited! I felt like a kid all over again, the magic and anticipation of Santa and Christmas morning were very present. I didn’t sleep much, and by 5 am I was literally ready to get up and open presents. I seriously considered going and getting my parents up ‘for old times sake’ like when we were kids and getting up at 3 being told to go back to bed, then 4 then 5 and finally my parents would give up about 6.

I had the pleasure of sharing Christmas this year with both my parents and only me. No kids, no siblings, no in laws, just us, which is a rare and special occasion. It is not often that such an opportunity occurs and I felt that this in itself was a gift. Christmas Eve we watched a movie and my Mum and I sat up late talking and sipping gingerbread martinis. At midnight we toasted and wished each other Merry Christmas. We peeked outside, and experienced a calm beautiful evening. The snow gently falling and a peacefulness in the air, truly a unique energy that was not present earlier that day (or on Christmas morning when I popped outside either). It really was like in the movies, that magical energy, and presence there.

IMG_4491One of the things I love to do over the holidays is experiment with different festive recipes and on Christmas Eve I had already been thinking about trying a Cranberry smoothie of some kind Christmas morning. I googled a number of recipes and found some good ones, though undecided which one to try.

When I woke in the morning (or should I say finally got up around 8) I bounced out of the spare room wishing a Merry Christmas! Mum was at the sink, Dad dressing in red and I was moving towards the tree. Quickly with coffees or waters in hand we began a lovely ritual of opening gifts and sharing. After gifts Mum went to the kitchen to make brunch – a fabulous Impossible Quiche with Daiya smoked gouda, spinach and mushrooms and I proceeded to make the smoothies. I had decided to take the elements of some of the recipes I found that I liked and combine them, adding some of my own ingredients and creating my own. The result was fantastic! A smooth creamy, flavorful smoothie that we all socked back quickly, expressing how much we enjoyed it. I loved the added greens myself, which darkens the pink looking smoothie slightly but gets those greens in there without even tasting it! The added benefit is that cranberries themselves are considered a super food and are high in vitamin C, E, fiber as well as providing benefits such as improved immune system, antioxidant and decreased blood pressure.

When I arrived home after Christmas I made it again for the kids and they all loved it! Matthew who hasn’t been drinking many smoothies these days, tasted it said ‘Oh that’s good’ and drank the rest quickly. Chloe asks me every day since she tried it for one and has expressed that it’s her new favorite. Even my ex husband tried it the other day and said it was good (this is a big thing btw, as he is not really a smoothie guy and particular about tastes). I was quite pleased with the results and I think I drove my parents a little crazy that first day I made it when I kept saying throughout the day how good it was and how impressed with myself for creating it. Well it was good!

So if you’ve got a festive theme going over the holidays or simply want to try out a great new smoothie recipe, give this one a go! If you find it a little tart for your tastes just add more stevia when making it. Then come back here and comment telling me how you like it!

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

2 bananasIMG_6831

1 c. frozen cranberries

1 c. un sweetened almond-cashew yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. orange juice

1/2 of 1 g packet of stevia

handful of spinach* (optional)

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Garnish with slice of orange and a few cranberries if desired. Pour into 8 oz glasses and serve.

*if you would like a bright pink smoothie do not add spinach as it will darken it. I love tossing in that bit of green as it is a great way to get those greens in a quick and easy way. And you don’t even notice it’s there!

Serves 3 (makes 3 – 8 oz servings)

Camping Desserts – Sugar Free Banana Boats

IMG_4190As camping season begins, I start to think about all the delicious camping meals and snacks that we enjoy. Planning carefully which ones to include, because we can’t go without the favorites, and which new ones to try.

Growing up we had many favorites, such as tin foil dinners, cinnamon apples, s’mores etc. But when we decided to modify our diets and go sugar free this made some of our favorite camping recipes a little more tricky to enjoy. Slowly but surely I have been figuring out how to adjust them to meet our needs, and not miss out on the delectable tastes!

One of the recipes I have been working on is banana boats. A delectable mix of banana, chocolate and marshmallows, warmed and melted over hot coals from the fire. Mmmm, that mix of melted chocolate marshmallow is to die for! I had figured out early on how to remedy the chocolate situation, having taken a raw organic chocolate making course a few years ago. But it was the marshmallows that stumped me – until last year – when I finally found a recipe to make marshmallows; completely healthy and sugar free!

Cinnamon Apple

Cinnamon Apple

Now that I had all my ingredients we were able to try it out. So one lovely and sunny fall afternoon we packed up what we needed and headed out to Bragg Creek Provincial Park to enjoy a short hike and a fire, where we would enjoy roasted hot dogs and try out the banana boats.

The kids were super excited to get things started! Luke and Chloe listening attentively to the directions on how to make their banana boat. First they needed to eat out a bit of the banana, then put in their chocolate pieces and marshmallows. Then wrapped it up in tin foil and place on the hot coals. Turning once, approximately 4 minutes a side.

Luke and Chloe watched in anticipation, asking if it was ready yet, hoping that by watching it it would cook faster. The trick with banana boats is you want them cooked long enough so that the chocolate and marshmallows melt but do not disintegrate and the banana is warm and soft. Depending on the heat of your coals the cooking time could vary slightly. Notice I said coals. You want those hot red embers, not flame and fire, in order to cook your banana boats. Flame will cause your dessert to burn and cook too fast, and who wants a charred banana? 🙁IMG_4191

Once they were ready we took them out of the fire, using tongs as they are very hot, and placed them on the table. Carefully we unwrapped them and Luke, Chloe and Matthew, spoons in hand, were ready to dig in! I warned them that it would be hot so to let it cool slightly and/or small bites blowing on it. They heeded my advice and tentatively took a bite.  Immediately their faces lit up with hugs smiles and exclamations of how yummy it was! Then quickly diving in for more. All done and faces covered in chocolate, they eagerly asked for another. Unfortunately I had only brought enough for one each, so said we’d have to make them again soon. But I was so pleased that they worked and were a hit! I cannot wait to get out there this camping season and have some more! And this time I will plan for 2 each!

What are your favorite camping desserts? Share in the comments below.

 

Banana Boats

*to make banana boats you will need one banana per person

Firm ripe bananas

sugar free chocolate pieces (either homemade or use unsweetened bakers chocolate)

sugar free marshmallows

heavy duty tinfoil

tongs

spoons

IMG_4188Cut peel of banana down the sides and across top of banana, creating a flap that you can open. Do not cut the bottom. With a spoon eat out part of the banana. Eat/ scoop out enough to create a space to put in chocolate and marshmallows, but do not eat down to the peel on the other side, you want to leave some banana there.

Place chocolate and marshmallow pieces inside banana. You can put in as much as you want but you do not want to overstuff it! The flap must be able to close over top, otherwise a lot of your fillings will leak out while cooking.

Place flap of banana overtop to close it. Take a medium size piece of heavy duty tinfoil (you want heavy duty as putting it in the fire is intense heat and regular foil will cause it to burn before actually cooking), wrap up your banana tightly.

IMG_4189Place tin foil wrapped banana on hot coals and cook for approximately 4 minutes (cooking times may vary depending on the heat of your coals). After first 4 minutes, flip over to the other side and cook for another 4 minutes.

Remove tin foil wrapped banana from fire using tongs. Open foil very carefully, foil will be very hot! Check banana, if chocolate and marshmallows are melted, then you are ready to eat! If it is not melted as much as  you would like, rewrap banana in foil and place back on coals for a few more minutes.

 

Bacon in All Things

I love bacon. And so do my kids. They want everything with bacon. If I am making eggs they are asking if they are having it with bacon. Pancakes, waffles, etc. are we having bacon too? I am not sure if they inherently inherited this love of bacon from my younger sister who basically has bacon with everything!

IMG_3309In fact every time I see something with bacon I think of my sister and how much she loves it. I have noticed entire menus centered around bacon and would take pictures and send it to my sister, never really thinking much of it myself. I thought some of these combinations may be odd, but having never tried them I didn’t discount that it had possibilities.

A couple of weeks ago as I was listening to the radio in the car, I heard the morning show crew on KISS FM talking about things with bacon and how the one DJ put bacon on absolutely everything, including her brussel sprouts! I am not a fan of brussel sprouts, but I was intrigued when she mentioned bacon with her macaroni and cheese. Hmmm, I thought, that might actually be good.

Then later that week, while at Beerfest, I noticed that one of the food items being offered was macaroni and cheese with bacon. I was tempted to try some…

Instead I decided to come home and make my own macaroni and cheese with bacon, that way I could make a dairy free version and enjoy it much more (cause honestly once you go dairy free when you have even a trace of it it’s just not worth the symptoms afterwards and just feeling gross). So we finished up at Beerfest, no rush of course :), and then came home for dinner.

IMG_5261I made my mac and cheese like I usually do, using the Daiya cheddar cheese, almond milk and Earth Balance. I maybe added a little extra cheese and I felt this dish would be much better being a little cheesier. Then I cooked up the bacon, I usually use Mitchell’s, which is a brand that does not add sugar to their bacon when curing it. Most brands do unfortunately, but there are a few you can find, like Mitchell’s that do not have the added sugar. My mouth was watering as I was preparing everything, so excited to try this out.

Once everything was ready I crumbled up the bacon, served my mac and cheese and put the bacon on top. Then scooped up some and tasted it. Omg! was it ever good. The flavours worked so well together, the salty bacon giving it just the right taste sensation in my mouth. It was really hard not to overindulge on this dish.

The next week I made it for the kids, who of course gobbled it up! Now I understand how people can combine anything with bacon. There is just something about it that creates a flavour that your tastebuds will enjoy and be asking for more! I love too that I was able to make this in a way that meets my dietary choices of no dairy and no sugar, and still appreciate the combination.

Now I don’t know if I am going to be putting bacon with brussel sprouts anytime soon, maybe it will improve the taste? But I am definitely going to be more open about trying bacon with more things!

Do you have any dishes that you love adding bacon?

 

A Coffee Smoothie…yes!

warm capuccino-saidaonlineThere’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. That fragrant aroma wafting through the air, the warmth of your mug as you gently lift it up and breathe, pause, then take a sip. Ahhh…I love coffee. And lately I have been drinking a lot of it. Well a lot for me, comparatively to other people I really don’t drink much at all. I drink maybe a cup a day, and there are some days none at all, but for a girl who used to drink one cup of decaf maybe once a week, a full caffeinated brew every day is a lot!

It’s all those fantastic flavored coffees that have done me in, toasted coconut, cinnamon pastry. But they don’t come in decaf and it is the caffeine that sends me flying, high on energy and sometimes a little shaky, probably not so good for me. Yet when the german chocolate cake is calling…

IMG_4721Luckily there’s a smoothie for that 🙂 Yes a way to still get my coffee fix, cause really I think what I am looking for is the flavor, and make it a more healthy choice and experience. It consists of all kinds of good things, like flax seed, cacao, honey and almond milk, with that little splash of coffee to finish it off.

It is quite yummy and satisfying. In fact, I made it for a friend of mine a couple of years ago, an avid coffee drinker and an avid smoothie avoider, and he loved it! He now enjoys them regularly. I also shared it with my mother this past weekend who is very much a smoothie drinker and loves her coffee, so it wasn’t really a hard sell, but she loved it and immediately asked for the recipe.

The recipe is quite simple, combining all the ingredients in the blender, mix and ready to serve. It can easily be made ahead and drunk later in the day, or right away, as I am sure you will not be able to wait.

Chocolate Mocha Smoothie

3/4 c. unsweetend almond milk

2 tbsp. cacao powder

1-2 oz. coffee (you can use decaf if you prefer, or any flavored coffee that you feel goes well with chocolate)

1 tbsp. flax seed oil

1 tbsp. vegan protein powder

1 tsp. honey

optional: 2 ice cubes (this thickens up your smoothie if prefered)

Put all ingredients into a Vitamix blender. Mix until smooth. Enjoy!

Valentine’s Day Martini

IMG_4677As some of you know, I am really into martinis these days. It started last fall when my love of pumpkin helped me to discover a recipe for a pumpkin martini. I wasn’t a huge fan of martinis at the time as I had found that most of them were kind of sour, or way too strong for my liking. But I had tried a few, my youngest sister being a fan of them, her favorite being the Cosmo.

The pumpkin martini was absolutely divine! It became my new favorite and as a result I decided to venture out and try some other martini combinations. I’ve enjoyed Lavender one, Gingerbread, and a Poison Apple to name a few.

And now every time we approach a holiday, I am on the hunt for a new one to try that fits with theme of that holiday. Valentine’s Day was no exception, so earlier this week I set out searching the internet for a fabulous ‘Valentine’s’ recipe to try. There were so many to choose from, many with a common theme of red and some kind of fruit, either raspberries or strawberries. Many I have earmarked and saved to my Pinterest board for taste testing at a later date.

The Raspberry Chocolate Kiss Martini was the one that caught my eye and won the privilege of being ‘tested’ for this Valentine’s. Originally created by chef Michael Schulson, I had a few adjustments to make but knew it could be done. First off I had to figure out how to make my own simple syrup, which is basically sugar and water. I had thought before that I could probably do this with agave nectar instead of sugar and create the same thing, but had yet to try it. Well now was the time and I am happy to say it worked very well.

One thing I puzzled over though in the original recipe was the chocolate part (or lack of in my opinion). The only thing that presented any chocolate at all was the cookie rim that went on the glass, not really what I would consider enough chocolate to merit chocolate in the title! So I experimented. I tried making the martini and sprinkling cacao nibs on top. Honestly that did not do much. Then I tried chocolate shavings sprinkled on top, that was better.

I experimented a little more, rimming the martini glass in chocolate icing, ahhhh…now we’re talking. I also tried dipping the rim in melted chocolate and then letting it cool and solidify before adding the martini mix. All, I found were very good solutions to the chocolate I felt was truly missing in this drink. Which is the best? That’s hard to say. I think you should perhaps try them out and then let me know which one you think is the best 🙂

This martini in general is fabulous, a very delicious fruity sweet drink. I do advise you to be careful though as the sweet easily masks the vodka in it and it goes down very smoothly!

So serve your sweet something a little different this Valentine’s, or baby just make one for yourself and enjoy!

Raspberry Chocolate Martini

*1/4 c. mint infused syrup

10 raspberries

2 oz. vodka

2 tbsp. cranberry juice

ice cubes

Chocolate options:

rim glass with chocolate icing or

dip rim of martini glass in melted chocolate, let cool or

sprinkle chocolate shavings on top of drink

Place raspberries in a martini shaker and shake till crushed. Add mint infused syrup, shake again. Now add vodka, cranberry juice and ice. Shake well until chilled. Pour into martini glass, sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Enjoy! If rimming glass with icing or melted chocolate do this step before pouring martini into glass

*Mint Infused Syrup

1/4 c. agave nectar

1 c. water

1 bunch mint

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan on stove over medium heat. Stir and heat until agave nectar has dissolved. Take off heat and let cool. Strain through a sieve, syrup is ready to use. May be kept in fridge in an air tight container up to 2 weeks.

Coconut Curry Chicken with Pineapple

IMG_3328I love barbequing! I love how it’s little dishes, less mess and usually very delicious! In fact, I enjoy barbequing so much that we usually bbq year round! Regardless if it is -30 or plus 30 C. (Thankfully it is not usually -30 C around here in the winter, but it is often below zero).

I know! You are probably thinking that this woman is crazy; but I’ve been out there in my winter boots flipping burgers or tending the steaks. Breath coming out in white whisps as it floats into the air. I never worry about the weather forecast or if it is ‘barbeque’ weather, as it is always barbeque weather for me!

It wasn’t until recently though that I actually learned to barbeque. Yes we were barbequing year round but it was my husband who was doing it. In fact I had never even made something as simple as the burgers! I would always mix the ground turkey or chicken and make the patties but never actually cooked them myself. I have no idea why I did this. Perhaps I thought it was the ‘mans job’, or perhaps it was just my way of diveying up the jobs, regardless up to a couple of years ago actually doing the cooking on the barbeque was a whole new thing to me.

Barbecue-gaz-1They say bbqing is an art and I would agree. Certain meats need lower temperatures and longer times, while others do better on a medium to high heat. I learned a little from my Dad and remembered what he said to do as I watched him barbeque over the years. And I did a little figuring it out myself. Overall I am a very good barbequer and I sometimes even take over that task when I am at my parents house!

The one thing about barbequing though, especially if you do it as often as I do, is variety. I believe there is more to barbequing than just burgers and steaks, so I like to explore other recipes are and what other things you can do. I have found that the barbeque has way more options for cooking on it then I originally thought, expanding my repertoire of dishes quite a bit. (Did you know you can do pizza on the barbeque? I did try it once, not so successfully mind you, but it can be done!)

A lot of barbeques these days come standard with rotisseries as well, which opens up a whole other path of options for you, such as roast chicken, roast or lamb. My mouth just waters at the thought of it….

One of my favorite recipes that I have discovered for the barbeque is Coconut Curry Chicken with grilled pineapple. Originally from Clean Eating Magazine, it is really easy, very moist and tastes delicious. It only takes a few minutes per side to cook and voila! dinner is ready. Just add rice and a nice salad (or other vegetable) and you have a complete delicious meal. The only trick is it does require a little bit of pre-planning as you need to marinate the chicken for a couple of hours before cooking it on the barbeque.

The kids love it and my oldest usually gobbles up two chicken breasts on his own (yes he may be a growing boy but he can also be a bit of a picky eater, he will not eat things he doesn’t like no matter how hungry he is). I find the pineapple slice on the top really makes it, the flavors going very well together.

So whether you feel like barbequing tonight or saving this recipe for warmer weather, you’ll want to give this tasty coconut curry chicken a try. Completely dairy free, sugar free and gluten free, it is a dish that will be enjoyed by all.

Coconut Curry Chicken with Pineapple

4 boneless chicken breastsIMG_3324

**1 1/2c. coconut curry marinade

1/2 c. unsweetened coconut

4 fresh pineapple rings

Place chicken in a large ziploc bag. Add coconut curry marinade and seal, squeezing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours.

In a non stick skillet, heat coconut on medium heat until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Turn BBQ on and heat to medium high. Lightly oil grate with olive oil (I find best is to brush on with heat resistant pastry brush). Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Place chicken on grill and reduce heat to medium low (I find with chicken a little lower heat and a little longer time, keeps it moist and prevents it from drying out). Grill chicken until cooked through, about 3-5 minutes per side.

If you have room on your grill with the chicken place pineapple rings on and cook until lightly charred, about 2 minutes per side. If you don’t then you can do the pineapple at the end quickly once chicken is cooked.

To serve, sprinkle toasted coconut on chicken and one ring of pineapple on top of each  chicken breast.

Serves 4*

*I have found the marinade can easily accommodate 5 or 6 breasts and creates less waste

**Coconut Curry Marinade

2 c. coconut milk

2 tbsp. curry powder

2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. black pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. Can be used on chicken, pork, seafood and vegetables.

It’s Green….eewww

IMG_4568Greens, greens, greens, one of the first things I hear when talking about diet is that we should eat more greens. There certainly is a variety to choose from like spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, dandelion, etc. all fall into this category. They are rich in fiber, vitamins (like vitamin C, K, E), minerals and have many disease fighting benefits.

But honestly, greens are not always that appetizing. Seriously, I can only eat so many salads, so many different ways and then my body is craving something else. A totally different texture and sweetness even. I don’t care how good for you they are, I get to a point when I cannot possible eat another leafy thing. (You’re with me aren’t you?) Salads can get boring even after you have come up with all different kinds of ways to spice them up! Whether it be nuts, dried fruit, salad dressing etc. You need a change!

So how do you get those oh so beneficial greens in on a daily basis? In fact vegetables in general sometimes I can find a challenge. They recommend 5 servings of veg a day and often I get to supper and may not have had even one.

What I have discovered is the magic of smoothies! They are a great way to get all kinds of things into your body in a quick, easy and yummy way. There are all kinds of great recipes and combinations out there that are absolutely delicious. And sometimes you may not even notice the ‘good stuff’ (like spinach) that’s in there because you can’t really taste it.

IMG_4309Every morning I make a delicious tasting green smoothie that includes a bunch of greens and some fruit to sweeten it up. That way first thing I am getting not only some vegetables, but some green vegetables right away! I make it religiously and even my kids love it and enjoy it as well, asking for some when I make it. (Score!) I miss it on the odd day that I do not make it, usually because I am out of some ingredient and haven’t gone to the store yet.

Now there are lots of variations on a green smoothie out there an honestly some of them are not very good. They look a gross colored green when mixed, they don’t taste that great, and though good for you I end up choking it down, trying not to bring it back up. Gross! Who wants to drink that! I don’t care how good it is for me.

IMG_4573I had tried one before that was cucumber, spinach, celery, parsley, lemon, banana and water. It was ok and I drank it, got the health benefits, but honestly it was not that tasty. And seriously if I am going to eat healthy then I want it to taste good to. I am not a believer in healthy having it taste like cardboard, or having to choke it down. Food is supposed to taste good, we are supposed to enjoy our food. It is one of pleasures of being on this planet and being human, food! So I did this first version for a while and then gave up, it just didn’t provide the taste I was looking for. So good for me or not, I ditched it. (Though for someone else this may be totally the kind of taste and smoothie you are looking for! To each his own right?)

It was when I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago that I discovered my recent combination for a green smoothie. Spinach, mint, papaya and more this smoothie not only looked a lovely vibrant green it tasted absolutely delicious! I was sold. I wrote down the ingredients and came home to create my own. I played a little bit with the amounts, got it how I wanted and now everyday I enjoy this yummy, sweet, nice looking green delicious smoothie. I even have both my mother and sister (and sometimes even my Dad and that’s saying something because my Dad is not really a smoothie guy) enjoying this smoothie everyday. Once I shared it with them and they tasted it, they were hooked as well.

Now of course, I am going to share it with you, and I hope you love it! If you’re not a sweet kind of person it may not work for you but give it a go and see. Kids for sure will love it and it is such a fabulous easy way to get in those vegetables and fruits that we may not be getting in daily. Smoothies in general  have endless possibilities…. but that is another post.

Green Smoothie

1 c. spinachIMG_4567

3-4 stems of parsley

1 sprig of mint

*1/2 c. papaya

1/2 c. pineapple

1/2 c. mango

1/2 -3/4 c. apple juice

Put all ingredients in Vitamix blender. Start on low moving up to high. Blend on high for 1 minute or until smooth. Enjoy!

*I usually use orange or yellow papaya as I like it better and find it sweeter; but you can also use red papaya

**vary the amounts of fruit to make it sweeter or less sweet to taste

Makes one glass of yummy green smoothie