Homemade Sugar Free Peach Pie

sugar free peach pie

Peaches are one of the wonderful fruits that are fresh and abundant in the summer months. Stock full of vitamins and minerals (like Vitamin E, K, A and lots of B’s), there’s nothing like biting into a fresh juicy peach on a summer’s day.

We often get our peaches fresh from the Okanagan fruit stands while out visiting Gran and Grandpa in BC, ok that is the only place we get our peaches. Once I’ve bitten into a fresh ripe Okanagan peach I just can’t bring myself to buy them in the store. They simply aren’t as good, not as juicy and not as flavorful. So once we’ve eaten them all I don’t get any more (unless I can go back to BC and get some).

Besides eating them fresh (my son sometimes eating 4-6 at a time!), I usually make peach jam, (which I love!), and make the odd crumble. It wasn’t until my neighbor went on one time about how much he loved peach pie that I even considered the possibility. I love making pies in the summer with all the fresh fruit, cherry pie being my favorite, but I had never made peach. So I set out to experiment.

sugar free peach pieWhen I originally found and made this peach pie recipe it was before we had eliminated refined sugars from our diet. So when I pulled up the recipe this summer (as my mother was asking that I share it with her) I had to make a few adjustments. I hadn’t realized that it still had white sugar in it.

I thought about using agave nectar, which I knew would work and is what I did originally when I transformed my cherry pie recipe, but I have heard a number of reports lately that agave is no better than refined white sugar. I had recently tried using honey in a pound cake recipe that turned out successfully so I decided to give honey a go for the peach pie.

As luck would have it, it turned out great, and everybody ate it up. With my oldest son even commenting that my pies are way better than Gran’s, as he inhaled his pie. My tip though is to make sure that you mix the honey in very well with the flour mixture so you don’t get any clumps of flour. The other option is to do the flour mixture without the honey, sprinkle it over the peaches, and then pour the honey over the peaches. It does produce a lot of juice regardless so I recommend a deep pie dish for sure.

Sugar Free Peach Pie

2 – 9″ pie crusts (store bought or homemade*)

1 egg beatensugar free peach pie

5c. sliced peaches, peeled and sliced

2 tbsp. lemon juice

½ c. flour

1 c. honey

½ tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. butter

Brush some of the beaten egg on crust to keep from getting soggy. Place peaches in a bowl and sprinkle with some lemon juice, mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix flour, honey, spices and pour over peaches, mix gently. Pour into pie crust, dot with butter. Put on top crust fold edges under. Flute or seal by pressing with a fork dipped in egg. Brush egg over the top crust.

Bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat and bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is brown.

Enjoy! (And don’t forget the ice cream! We enjoy a delectable creamy non dairy vanilla ice cream by Rice Dream. It’s fantastic.)

* I make my own pie crust which turns out flaky and delicious every time simply by using Tenderflake and following their recipe on the box.

What’s your favorite kind of pie in the summer? Share in the comments below.

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.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

IMG_3349The other day one of my neighbors offered me some fresh rhubarb from her garden. I am not a big fan of rhubarb (and don’t really know a lot about what to do with it) but I do really enjoy strawberry rhubarb pie (and I love making things with ingredients fresh from the garden). Years ago I had found a recipe and tried it. So when Matthew came in and said the neighbor asked if we wanted some I said yes! right away.

IMG_3330Rhubarb is a tart fruit that on its own is not to my liking but combined with strawberries I find the whole thing delicious. Now those years ago when I first made this pie it was the traditional white sugar filled filling, so this was my first attempt making it sugar free. I was a little nervous because it called for mixing the flour and sugar together but thought that would not work well with the agave nectar (what I chose to substitute for the sugar) being a liquid.

What I decided to do was to mix the flour and salt together and then once everything was in the pie shell to then pour the agave over top, letting it fill in the holes, as well as being on top.

IMG_3335The kids of course love pie, so it didn’t matter to them what kind of pie I was making, just that we were having pie after supper. Chloe actually helped me make the pie and enjoyed assisting in rolling out the pie crust. She also watched me cut the fruit and asked many questions along the way as to why I was doing this or that.

Once the pie was in the oven, everyone settled down. But as soon as it came out after supper I barely had time to let it cool before everyone was asking for a piece. I would have prefered to let it cool much more to allow for the filling to set but they weren’t having any of it. So I cut pieces for everyone and topped it with ice cream.

Oh. my. God. It was delicious! In fact it was even better than the sugar version I had made before. The kids licked and practically ate the plates it was on. And then promptly asked for more!

I feel that anything made fresh and with fresh garden grown ingredients is going to turn out quite well. But this was beyond my expectations, it was sooo good. With just the right combination of sweet.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

2-9 inch pie crusts (one for top and bottom)IMG_3331

2/3 c. agave nectar

¼ c. flour

¼ tsp. salt

3 c. chopped rhubarb

3 c. sliced strawberries

Mix flour and salt together, put 1/3 of mixture on the bottom of the pie crust. Add fruit in pie shell, leave slight mound in the center, and pour remaining dry ingredients on top. Pour agave nectar over top of fruit and dry ingredients. Cover with top crust. Pinch edges together to seal. Cut small slits in top of crust.

Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake for 40-50 minutes. Let pie cool for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the juices to cool and set.IMG_3345

Taste of Nature – a Fabulous Sugar Dairy & Gluten Free Snack in a Package

Today I am very excited to be doing my first official product review!

When we decided to go sugar free in our home, it meant making a lot of things that we normally purchased and enjoyed, from scratch. Bread, salad dressings, treats, and granola bars were some of the items that contain refined sugars, which was one of the ingredients we were avoiding. I spent hours in the kitchen creating and trying new recipes, finding things that worked and we liked. And though I was happy to be making this healthy change for my family, I was not loving being in the kitchen for most of my day. My oldest son, was also struggling with wanting the prepackaged stuff that everyone else had even though what I was providing was indeed tastier and better for him.

IMG_2951Each time I went to the grocery store I would look in the organic/ health food section to see what ‘packaged’ products they had come up with. Yes you could find all kinds but they usually contained ingredients that we couldn’t have, like dairy, refined sugar and on some occasions gluten. I could find a dairy free product but it had gluten, or sugar free but it had dairy and nowhere could I find one that met all 3 (and tasted good, we have tried some that looked promising but they did not taste good at all).

So last week when doing my regular shopping trip I was very pleased to discover these fruit and nut bars by Taste of Nature! A Canadian company, these organic snack bars are delicious and come in a variety of flavors such as Canadian Maple Forest, Quebec Cranberry Carnival and California Almond Valley. Each flavor is a different mix of nuts, seeds and fruit, such as raisins, almonds, sesame seeds to exotic ingredients like dried cherries, pomegranite and cashews.

I immediately bought a couple and brought them home to try. We didn’t even make it out of the parking lot and the twins were asking to have one. So we sampled and shared the Brazilian Nut Fiesta. Wow! These bars were good! Sweetened with agave nectar and brown rice syrup these bars contain no artificial flavors or additives, have no dairy and no gluten! They are also certified organic, vegan, and kosher! We had hit the mother load!

I was so excited to have found these that I immediately came home and checked out their website. I was thrilled to see that they offered many more flavors such as Niagara Apple Country, Nova Scotia Blueberry Fields and Persian Pomegranite Garden. This is where I also learned this company aims to produce zero carbon footprint, uses green business practices and that providing quality products and caring for our environment are very important to them.

IMG_2955I was sold! This was a great company and one that met all our dietary needs. Woohoo! I could now spend a little less time in the kitchen 🙂

Over the course of the next week we tried a few more flavors, Canadian Maple Forest, Quebec Cranberry Carnival and Louisianna Pecan Parade (one of their newest flavors and my favorite as it has cashews and dried cherries in it!) Their other new flavor is Polynesian Coconut Breeze, which I am very excited to try as I love coconut as well!

Of course the twins have enjoyed all the flavors and my oldest son’s favorite is also the Louisianna Pecan Parade.

I am so pleased to see Canadian companies being innovative and creating products that are meeting the growing demands and changes of a healthier population and recognizing that there is a need and market out there. And the variety that this company provides is fabulous!

The other thing I was pleased with was the price for this product. At less than $2 per bar I thought this was quite reasonable considering the quality and variety of ingredients. We will definitely be purchasing more of these great bars and adding them to our healthy snacks!

I’d like to thank Taste of Nature who provided a variety of their fabulous bars for us to try. Thank you! They are delicious!

Tis the Season for Apples (and yummy Crumb Cake)

Fall is a great time of year. Not only with the warm sunny days and crisp fall mornings, but the fall harvest and abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits that are available.

We have an apple tree in our backyard so each Fall we have an abundance of apples. So many that I don’t always know what to do with them. And with each year the amount of apples increases as the tree grows. We usually end up with an apple crumble every other day, apple pie, as well as I make homemade applesauce and apple juice from them. The kids will also eat them right off the tree but there is no way that they can eat them fast enough.

This year I decided that I wanted to try some new things with our apples, as though pie and crumble are good, well you can only have so much (can’t you?). I have been trying various apple cake and apple muffin recipes; and though good were only using 2 apples at a time. Then I remembered, when I was growing up my Mum used to make this crumb cake which is originally a recipe from my Oma. I remembered that sometimes she put apples or plums in the cake, which made this delicious cake even better! Perfect I thought that this would use up some apples for sure! So I decided to pull out the recipe and make apple crumb cake.

Apple Cake Muffins

I was surprised at how much sugar was in it! I knew it took a lot for the crumbs, but I didn’t think there was that much in the cake. I knew though that I could make the adjustments. Deciding on coconut sugar as the substitute, I set out making the cake, in hopes that it would not only turn out but that I could use a good amount of apples in it as well.

Only 4 apples and a short time later, I had the cake in the oven. Matthew had taste tested the dough by licking a beater, and informed me that it was yummy. (I always find that if the dough tastes good that is a good indication that your cake/ cookies will be). Things were looking good.

As it started to bake and the smells were wafting through the house, Chloe wandered into the kitchen saying “Oh something smells good!” Another excellent indicator.

It looked good too, looking like I remembered when my Mom used to make it. Now it was just the taste test. The timer beeped indicating it was done, everyone’s mouths watering in anticipation. I let it sit for about 20 minutes to cool (and to have supper) before we cut into it.

Everyone devoured their cake and quickly asked for seconds. Luke’s mouth still full as he asked for more. I found that it tasted very close to the original and was pleased with how it turned out. The only change I would make would have been to add another layer of apples on the cake before putting the crumbs on top. I like to be able to taste the fruit and though you could, a few more apples would do the trick.

I think next time, I will try using honey in the actual cake, still using coconut sugar for the crumbs, just to see what the difference, if any would be. I am always curious and like to see which sugar substitute is the best. Though sometimes the one I choose is good, another choice is much better. Regardless I know that coconut sugar works and is a very good choice as the twins have been going on about apple cake. Matthew even said that he would be the envy of all his friends at school when he has some in his lunch today, because it is so delicious!

Though it did not use as many apples as I would have liked the cake was a hit and like my aunt said, “That’s 4 less apples than you had before” which is true. My quest for using up my apples continues, looking for unique and delicious ways to do so. (So if you have some good apple recipes to share please send them my way!) The baking frenzy continues…

I know I can slice and freeze the apples, the trouble is I tend to forget about them down there in the freezer…maybe I should get into dehydrating?

Apple Crumb Cake (sugar free and dairy free)

Dough:

apple crumb cake

Crumb Cake

1 c. coconut sugar

3 1/2 c. flour

3 tbsp. baking powder

juice from half a lemon

1/2 c. Earth Balance vegan spread

4 eggs

2/3 c. rice milk

Crumbs:

1/2 c. Earth Balance Vegan spread

1 1/4 c. coconut sugar

1 3/4 c. flour

Dough: Cream Earth Balance, coconut sugar and eggs. Add flour and baking powder, mix well. Then add rice milk and lemon juice creating a soft dough. Press or roll dough into a cookie sheet sized pan.

Crumbs: Mix flour and coconut sugar in a medium sized bowl. Cut Earth Balance into sugar/ flour mixture. Form large crumbs and spread over dough.

Thinly slice apples and place on top of cake, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle cinnamon, coconut sugar and a little Earth Balance on top of fruit, then add crumbs on top. You can use other fruit such as plums for this cake. If choosing plums omit cinnamon.

Bake at 350 C for 1 hour.

Sugar Free White Cake Recipe

One of the things I discovered early on in our sugar free journey was how to make a cake, specifically a birthday cake, using agave nectar as the substitute for sugar. Though there are many other options for natural sweeteners this was the first one that I tried. I have found though that depending on the recipe and what you are making depends on what the best substitution is.

I had great success with this vanilla cake recipe and have used it many times. The kids love it and no one knows the difference when they eat it unless I tell them it’s sugar free. You can easily use this recipe for white cupcakes as well.

I used it this year for Chloe’s kitty cat birthday cake (for the twins birthdays I make a cake for each of them and I usually do one chocolate and one vanilla). With chocolate icing it was delicious as usual.

White (Vanilla) Cake Recipe

3/4 c. agave nectar

1/2 c. Earth Balance

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 c. flour

1 3/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 c. almond or rice milk

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour 9×9 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, cream agave nectar and Earth Balance. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in vanilla.

Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan or into muffin tin for cupcakes.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.

Yield: 12 cupcakes or 9×9 inch pan

Chocolate Dream Pie

Each year on Valentine’s Day I make some kind of dessert or special treat for me and the kids. It adds a little something extra to the day and something to look forward to. Usually something chocolate, I like to experiment with new recipes and new ways of doing things. Last year I made chocolate covered strawberries, dipping them in my own homemade chocolate, the year before chocolate cupcakes.

This year I made one of our new favorites Chocolate Dream Pie. This no bake, sugar free, dairy free, gluten free dessert is to die for! Made all in the blender it is delicious (and guilt free). There are a few unique ingredients, which might turn you off at first, but trust me you will not be disappointed.

Irish Moss

For instance, irish moss, which is a kind of seaweed gathered on the coast of Prince Edward Island, helps congeal and set your pie. Only a pinch is needed and depending on where you live, may be hard to find. But once you know what you are looking for you can track it down, even if you order it online. I was able to find it here locally in Calgary at the Light Cellar.

My kids love it, of course. Matthew’s eyes get big and he starts to salivate. Luke and Chloe who had their first piece, and when done, promptly asked for a second piece. I also shared it with my girlfriend today who not only asked me for the recipe, but regretted sharing it with her son (who also loved it) because she wanted more for herself 🙂

Quick and easy to make, this recipe won’t disappoint.

Chocolate Dream Pie

Crust

1 c. hazelnut mash (from making nut milk)

1 c. walnuts

3-4 tbsp. agave nectar (I like to use Ojio as it is a higher quality agave)

1/4 tsp. vanilla

Filling

3/4 oz. irish moss (soak a small pinch of irish moss in water overnight, rinse well and use in recipe)

1 1/2 c. hazelnut milk

1/4 c. agave nectar

1/4 pitted dates

1/3 c. cacao powder

1/2 tsp. vanilla powder

pinch sea salt

1 rounded tsp. non-GMO lecithin

3/4 c. coconut oil

For crust: Make the *nut milk and use the leftover mash for making the crust. Put all the ingredients into the Vitamix in order listed. Select variable 8. Quickly turn machine on and off, scraping the sides of the container with a spatula between pulses, until a damp meal is formed.

Press the crust into a lightly greased (with coconut oil) 9 inch pie plate.

For filling: Place all ingredients in Vitamix in order listed. Select varaible 1. Turn Vitamix on slowly and increase speed to 10, then to high. Blend 30-40 seconds or until desired consistency is reached.

Pour into prepared crust. Place in fridge until set (about 1 hour).

*Hazelnut milk

Place 1 cup of hazelnuts, soaked overnight and drained, with 3 cups of water in Vitamix. Selecting variable 1, turn machine on slowly increasing speed to 10 and then to high. Blend for 30 seconds.

Over top of a medium size bowl, pour contents form Vitamix into nut bag. Strain through nut bag. Use milk and mash for recipe. Store leftover milk in fridge.

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

I love peanut butter cookies! They are so tender and moist and they melt in your mouth. They are definitely one of my favorite cookies but I hadn’t made them for a while as I hadn’t figured out how to adjust the recipe without sugar in them.

My mother, bless her, since we have chosen to go sugar free, has been experimenting in her kitchen so that she could make treats for the kids when we come to visit. She has adjusted many of our favorite recipes so that we can still enjoy them. She was the one who figured out how to successfully make peanut butter cookies with no sugar. In her first attempt she substituted date sugar, which she found did not work so well as the cookies were dry ad crumbly. Her next attempt proved successful as she uses a combination of coconut sugar and agave nectar, which make a sweet, soft cookie, that literally does melt in your mouth. Luke and Chloe love her peanut butter cookies!

I had been craving them myself for a while so I whipped up a batch last night using my mother’s recipe. I was literally drooling over the batter, my mouth watering as I mixed it up (cause the next best thing to freshly baked peanut butter cookie is peanut butter cookie dough!)

I did resist eating all the dough and baked 5 dozen cookies. Some plain and some with sugar free jam, I make my own, in the middle (I love those best, they are even more soft and moist, peach jam is my favorite).

Matthew even came down after going to sleep as he smelled the cookies baking, the sweet smells wafting up the stairs. (I get an image like in one of those cartoons with the person asleep being ‘carried’ down the stairs along the wafting smell to the kitchen). This morning the twins saw them (even though I thought I had cleverly tucked them out of sight) and wanted some right away. It did not go so well when I said no that we would have some later.

As soon as Luke and Chloe were up from their naps they were asking for cookies. And when Matthew came in the door afterschool and saw a pear on the counter wondered aloud why he wasn’t getting any cookies. (The deal was to eat our pear and then have cookies). We dove in. Ok we had 2 each, though I could have easily eaten 5 or 6, and I am sure the kids would have too. In fact Chloe came bouncing into the kitchen looking for more and when I told her that was it and that she had 2 already she said, “No I didn’t” with the most innocent look on her face. I laughed out loud! How early they start with those things 🙂

Chloe enjoying her cookie

I am sure over the next few days there will be many requests for cookies and I am sure I will indulge as well. In fact I am resisting right now going over to the container and popping 1 or 2 into my mouth… The nice thing is is they do not contain sugar so the kids will not get the adrenaline spike related to it and it is something sweet for them to enjoy. They will also eventually run out, but I can always make more! and might do so 🙂

Peanut Butter Cookies

1c. Earth Balance Vegan Spread

1 c. coconut sugar

1/2 c. agave nectar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 c. unsweetened peanut butter

2 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 c. flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

Cream Earth Balance. Add coconut sugar, agave nectar and eggs. Add peanut butter and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking powder and baking soda until well mixed and mixture is light and fluffy.

Scoop by the teaspoon and roll into a ball. Place ball on cookie sheet. With a fork press down once gently – dip fork in water so fork does not stick to dough.

Variation: may add a small amount of jam (any flavor you like) in middle of cookie. To do this form ball as above, with finger and press down in the middle of ball. Add small amount of jam in impression. We use sugar free jam that is sweetened with honey.

Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Yummy Raw Chocolate Pudding

Chloe enjoying her chocolate pudding

As a parent who endeavors to provide good healthy snacks for my kids, as I know many of us do, I was thinking the other day about what to provide for snacks other than fruit. Not that there is anything wrong with fruit, but I like variety, and so do my kids. As I think all human beings do, if we have oranges everyday for snack we may start out loving them but eventually be wishing for an apple, or some popcorn.

I read an article once that described things that appeal to kids most in their meals. They were foods that are sweet, salty, or crunchy and that if you appeal to one or more of these when planning meals and snacks you will always have success with them eating whatever you are serving.

So there are some days we make popcorn, others we have fruit, but the other day I realized that I have a great healthy chocolate pudding recipe, made from avocado and bananas. What a great snack option, sweet, chocolate and delicious! So I have added this to our snack list for afterschool. The kids love it, it is a great treat and it satisfies the sweet without the added sugar, cause there is no sugar (or dairy) in it!

And the great thing is because it has avocado in it, it curbs our body’s craving for any further sweets. My mother’s naturopath said that when our bodies crave sweets to have an avocado – and the reason is our body actually wants fat not sugar, and avocados are high in (monounsaturated) fat, so when we eat one we satisfy and give what our body needs.

I also find this pudding to be quite filling, a small portion is enough to enjoy and fill your tummy (which is good because it means there are leftovers for later!) The pudding once made will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days – if it lasts that long.

It is very easy to make, put all the ingredients in the blender and within minutes you have smooth, fluffy and delicious chocolate pudding.

Raw Chocolate Pudding

2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced

1 avocado, pitted and peeled

2 tbsp. raw cacao powder (please note this is different than cocao powder – they are not the same things)

1 tsp. agave nectar

Put all ingredients in Vitamix blender in the order listed. Start on low, slowly turn speed up to high. Blend for 30 seconds on high or until desired consistency is reached.

Luke's pudding mustache

Makes 1 1/2 c. of pudding

Note: If you do not have a Vitamix blender, you can use your regular blender but you may find that it is too thick to mix well. What I have done is mix it in the mixer first so that everything gets fairly well mixed and then I transfer it to the blender – blending it on high- to make it smooth and fluffy.

How to make Raw Organic Chocolates

Last year I took a class at The Light Cellar, here in Calgary, on how to make Raw Organic Chocolate. No sugar, no dairy and all natural ingredients. I was thrilled to find this course as I had been looking for an alternative so that we could still enjoy chocolates at Christmas, Easter and whenever else we wanted some!

I had taken a chocolate making class before, bought the kit, came home and never made chocolates again. This time was different. The difference was you actually make your chocolate from scratch, from natural ingredients and it is very easy (the other class you made your chocolates from premade chocolate bars or pieces that you melted and molded into your own chocolates. I found this process finicky and the pieces were presweetened; so you could not choose your own sweetener).

Chocolate actually comes from a cacao nut, which is made into various forms, such as cacao powder, paste, butter, etc. Making the chocolate is super simple, using four basic ingredients and only takes a few minutes. All you need is cacao powder or paste, cacao butter, some kind of sweetener (honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc.), and vanilla.

The first step is to melt the cacao butter in a bowl – use the double bowl method with the butter in the top bowl set over a bowl of boiling water (boil water put it into bowl and set on counter; then set your smaller bowl with cacao butter on top)- be very careful not to get any water into the top bowl as it will ruin your chocolate! Once the butter is melted add the vanilla bean and let it infuse (with a knife slice vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds with a spoon – put into cacao butter). Sift your cacoa powder in another bowl and add to taste, then add sweetener of choice. Voila! you now have a nice chocolate sauce which you can leave as is, pour into a pan refrigerate or freeze, or use as a base and add other ingredients.

The instructor did not give us exact amounts of ingredients to make our chocolate. He would provide a starting point and then encouraged us to taste it; to make it how we wanted. He recommended we start with a 1:1 ratio, mix it and go from there. More cacao powder made it a darker, richer chocolate, more sweetener made it sweeter – adjusting it according to our palette and preferences, so we had to taste it as we went along! He also encouraged us to use natural sweeteners and ingredients. For instance, we were using vanilla beans for our vanilla -actually cutting them open and scrapping out the inside. He said we could use vanilla extract but encouraged us to use pure extract if we did, not artificial.

Cacao powder

He described using these pure ingredients as “upgrading” – making it more natural, tastier and better for you. He also told us how we can add other ingredients to our chocolates that not only taste good but are high in nutrients, minerals and vitamins,  making it a superfood. Ingredients like goji berries, nuts and seeds, coconut and algae. Maca root powder, honey and mesquite powder. He even recommended in one recipe that we try a little cayenne. It was actually really good!

As for the cost, the ingredients to make your chocolate is quite reasonable. The instructor said that in the time it takes for us to go and buy chocolate at the store, we can make it at home faster with fresh ingredients for about $1.50 to $2 per 50 g – which is comparable to what you would pay at the store.

Shaped ice cube trays work great as chocolate molds

I also love the fact that I can add all these “superfood” ingredients to my chocolates so that chocolate really is good for me and the kids. So when they ask if they can have some chocolate, I can say “yes” without feeling guilty or worrying if they are having too much.

It’s also so much fun to make (I’ve already made 3 dozen caramel cups and orange ginger snowmen for Christmas) and easy to do with the kids. You can get different kinds of molds to make different shapes for your chocolates. Experiment and have fun!

In one of my previous posts I described various natural sweeteners that you can use not only in your everyday cooking and baking but for your chocolates as well. Check out that post for more details.

In an upcoming post I will share more about what you can add to your chocolates and method.

For your information The Light Cellar sells ingredients to make chocolate in bulk and is very well priced. I buy all my ingredients there and usually come out of the store with a big box of items! I find it hard to get out of there with only one or two things.