17 Decadent Sugar Free Valentine’s Treats

sugar free valentines treats

Sugar free Valentines treats sound like an anomaly. A dream perhaps that one can indulge and enjoy the decadence of the day and not feel guilty later. Valentine’s Day is another one of those holidays where sweet indulgences abound. Even though it is only one day, it is hard to resist all the sugary treats, especially the chocolate. You may find yourself often saying no thank you when you really just want to bite into that chocolatey something!

Valentine’s Day does not have to be that way! It is possible to indulge with sweet treats (chocolate and otherwise) that are not only sugar free but actually good for you.

When we went sugar free at our house there were two things I was not going to compromise. One was tasty food, if we were eliminating sugar then the food still had to taste delicious! not bland or like cardboard. The second, was that we were still going to celebrate and enjoy the holidays (including the food) – from Christmas to Easter – and no one was going to be denied yummy treats or feel like they always had to say no thank you.

So for each holiday I have either transformed our favorite recipes or sought out new ones – which is fun because I like to experiment, and compiled a list. The problem is, I usually want to make them all but realize that that is just unrealistic. So I pick a few favorites and try a few new ones. (It’s so hard to choose!) Thanks to all the wonderful bloggers out there (and some of my own recipes) I have a fantastic list of sugar free valentine’s treats and indulgences. Easy to make and enjoy guilt free!

Sugar Free Valentine’s Treats

At Valentine’s the popular treats seem to include either chocolate or raspberries, which is not such a bad thing, but I also like a little variety, so there’s a nice mix of sweet treats that would easily fit into the Valentine’s theme. Whether you’re treating your love, your kids, your friends or just for yourself it’ll be hard to choose which one to make first!

sugar free valentines treats

Photo credit: Brenda Bennett Sugar Free Mom

Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles

sugar free valentines treats

Photo credit: Brenda Bennett Sugar Free Mom

White Chocolate Coconut Fudge

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Dream Pie

sugar free valentines treats

Strawberries and Cream Gummies

sugar free valentines treats

Beetroot Red Velvet Cheesecake

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Cherry Tart

sugar free valentines treats

Coconut Panna Cotta

sugar free valentines treats

Almond Joy Bars

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

sugar free valentines treats

Vegan Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

sugar free valentines treats

Strawberry Ice Cream

sugar free valentines treats

Caramel Nut Slice

sugar free valentines treats

Raw Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Pudding

sugar free valentines treats

Homemade Chocolates

sugar free valentines treats

Red Velvet Cake

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Macaroons

Hard to choose isn’t it? Which one are you going to try first?

Thanks to all who contributed to this post! Brenda of Sugar Free Mom, Krissy of Pretty Wee Things, Megan of Detoxinista, Adrienne of Whole New Mom, Jess of Choosing Chia, Sara of I Quit Sugar and Maria of Maria Mind Body Health.

 

How to Make Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (with homemade chocolate)

chocolate dipped strawberriesChocolate dipped strawberries are one of those simple decadent treats that are easy to make and delicious. Often paired with champagne and Valentine’s Day they always give me the feeling of richness and luxury.

Imagine… the red juicy strawberry dipped into firm dark chocolate. As you bite into it, the taste sensation bursts in your mouth with the sweetness of the fruit and the richness of dark chocolate. There is just something about that combination.

chocolate dipped strawberriesEven though chocolate dipped strawberries have this air of luxury and decadence they are actually very easy to make and you can usually make a batch in about 15 minutes. They are also very healthy for you! As strawberries are high in Vitamin C, potassium, folate, fiber and antioxidants, while dark chocolate is high in maganese, iron and copper. And if you make your own chocolate as well, like I do, you can control the amount and type of sugar that goes into it as well! (I always use natural sweeteners, with honey being my top choice).

I often wonder if they’re so good for us why I don’t make them more often? Perhaps it is because they have this air of luxury (in my mind) and I really consider them a treat. (And why don’t we treat ourselves more often? – that is a whole other conversation)

So let’s get to it!

How to Make Chocolate Dipped Strawberries at Home (with homemade dark chocolate)

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Rinse and pat dry the strawberries. Two tips here – one is to make sure you have fresh firm strawberries, second is to make sure that your strawberries are very very dry after you have rinsed them. If there is any water or moisture on them then the chocolate won’t stick.
  3. chocolate dipped strawberriesPrepare your homemade dark chocolate. I use this very simple method to make my chocolate. No stove involved just a kettle, boiling water and two bowls. It is important to be very careful when making the chocolate that you do not get any water in it as it will change the mixture and your chocolate wont’t turn out. As I said I love using honey as my sweetener but in this case I would use pure maple syrup or liquid stevia, as sometimes the honey does not mix as well and will separate when it sets.
  4. Dip your strawberry into chocolate. Grab strawberry by the green leafy top and dip into the chocolate. Turn and twist your strawberry to get the coverage you want on all sides. Gently place your dipped strawberry on your parchment paper lined cookie sheet and dip the next strawberry.
  5. Once you have dipped all your strawberries place the cookie sheet into the fridge. This helps your chocolate set faster.
  6. If desired, you can dip your strawberries in the chocolate a second time for a thicker covering, better coverage or just more chocolate! You do need to wait until the first layer is set and firm before dipping the second time.
  7. Set back into the fridge until chocolate is set.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

**if you want to get really fancy you can make a batch of white chocolate and drizzle it over the dark chocolate. You would have to let it set again and wait a little longer but it looks great aesthetically, which is great to impress guests if you’re having a party or event.chocolate dipped strawberries

 

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.

Rich Creamy Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

 

dairy free chocolate ice cream

One of the most popular frozen sweet treats in the summer is most definitely ice cream. It’s great to be able to stop and enjoy an ice cream cone on a warm summer’s day. In fact I was drooling over them yesterday at the zoo, as everyone was walking around with a yummy soft serve ice cream.

When we went dairy free I was sad to miss out on all the wonderful ice cream flavors and the sweet yummy treat it provided. (I really missed ice cream and also cheese when I went dairy free, cause at the time there were not any really good dairy free alternatives). Not only was ice cream a great summer treat it used to be a staple at my house! When we were little we’d often anticipate ice cream after dinner, with my Dad being the worst contender.

I knew there were ways though that I could still indulge in my ice cream fetish that were still yummy and delicious without all the dairy. My first step was to buy a ice cream maker. Though not a necessity to make ice cream, there is just something fun about watching your liquid concoction turn into yummy ice cream. I also tried out some of the non dairy ice creams on the market, which there are some good ones, such as Rice Dream and Coconut Bliss, but they are very expensive and making my own was a much cheaper alternative. Besides I could control what I put into my ice cream and could avoid all the preservatives present in store bought brands.

dairy free chocolate ice creamAnd honestly, making your own ice cream does not take long at all. It is basically the time to mix your ingredients in your blender and churn it in the ice cream maker (usually about 30 minutes tops). So if you time it right there really is no waiting at all (and even if there is, doesn’t that create anticipation and excitement therefore enjoying even more the result?)

Making ice cream is also fun and easy to do with the kids. My kids help mix everything up and also love watching it churn. So far we have tried a few dairy free ice cream recipes, such as Simple Vanilla and Strawberry Banana, but our favorite so far is Peanut Butter Ice Cream, oh so yummy!

But what I like about this dairy free chocolate ice cream is the fact that there is no milk in it whatsoever, not even non-dairy, and uses cashews instead to create the creamy texture, which really amps up the nutrition. Cashews are a great source of fibre and are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like copper, Vitamin E and magnesium. I love it when I get to enjoy a yummy sweet treat and it is super good for me and for the kids (nothing like sneaking in the good stuff right?).

The other element that is important when I am trying out recipes is that they are sugar free, using natural sweeteners to sweeten if needed. So not only is this dairy free chocolate ice cream without dairy, it also has no refined sugars or sweeteners. And believe me taste is not compromised. This is a rich creamy chocolate ice cream that you will not believe is sugar or dairy free. You can serve it to you friends and they will be none the wiser.

My kids of course, gobbled it up and asked for seconds. Chloe got chocolate all over her face and they both got a little creative adding raspberries that they’d freshly picked from our raspberry bush, which made it even more delicious.

You could also add in other ingredients to this chocolate ice cream, like coconut or chocolate pieces.

Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

1 3/4 c. cashewsdairy free chocolate ice cream

1 3/4 c. water

1 c. pure maple syrup

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. cacao powder

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix well. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to instructions.

I found that our ice cream maker brought it to a nice soft serve consistency, which is what I believe most ice cream makers do. You can serve as is or if you’d like to have a firmer consistency transfer contents from ice cream maker into freezable container and put in your freezer til firm.

*If you do not have an ice cream maker don’t despair! Once ingredients are combined pour into a freezeable container with lid and place in your freezer for 6-8 hours or overnight. The advantage of an ice cream maker is simply that your ice cream is ready a little bit faster.dairy free chocolate ice cream

Do you have a favorite non-dairy ice cream recipe? Share in the comments below.

Easy Strawberry Banana Dairy Free Ice Cream Recipe

One of the things I definitely miss going dairy free is ice cream. A regular staple at my house when growing up; we often had it after supper, asking my parents hopefully if we could have some. Unless we were out, they usually said yes. Knowing that this was one thing I could not give up completely I set out to find some dairy free ice cream recipes.

dairy free ice cream recipeWhen I first started searching for dairy free ice cream recipes I thought that I would always have to make it in an ice cream maker using some kind of dairy free milk and natural sweetener. But what I have discovered is it can be even simpler than that. In fact it is so easy to make a great creamy, dairy free sugar free ice cream that as soon as you’re done reading this post, you’ll probably hop up and make some. Five minutes, maybe less, honestly you’ll be done.

Not to say that using an ice cream maker and an alternative dairy free milk is not a good option. In fact, I have some super yummy ice cream recipes made with coconut milk, like the peanut butter ice cream, that is so creamy and delicious it is worth the few extra minutes to make it. But sometimes you just want a quick treat. Not too much work and not too much thought being put into it. This is why I like this recipe for a dairy free strawberry banana ice cream. Super simple, super tasty and the only thought you have to put into it is do I have frozen bananas?

Dairy Free Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

This easy dairy free ice cream recipe gives you a nice soft serve ice cream in less than five minutes

dairy free ice cream recipe1 frozen banana (*peel banana before putting into freezer)

1 c. frozen strawberries

Put frozen banana and frozen strawberries into Vitamix blender. (If you do not have a Vitamix, a high powered blender of some kind is recommended due to the fruit being frozen and to prevent burning out your blender. If you have a standard blender, just proceed slower or blend fruit in smaller amounts to prevent burnout). Turn Vitamix on starting at low speed and slowly turn up to high. You may need to use tamper to push frozen fruit down to thoroughly mix. Once you have a soft serve consistency ice cream is ready to serve. Scoop into bowls and enjoy!

This dairy free ice cream recipe can also be made with different kinds of fruit, substituting the strawberries for raspberries or mango, etc. We have found though that the banana is a key part of the recipe in order to get that nice ice cream consistency and should always be present.

This is also a great recipe to make with kids as it is super easy for them to help with by putting the fruit into the blender or turning it on under the direction of an adult. It’s perfect for a hot summer day when you want a yummy cool treat and super quick to make. With just a little pre planning by having frozen fruit ready in the freezer you can literally whip it out in no time!

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.

Kids Healthy Cooking – Healthy Sweet Treats

IMG_6963As human beings one of our biggest vices is all things sweet. The same goes for our kids as well, they prefer bananas over carrots, the cookie over the banana and so on. But what if we could create healthy sweet treats for kids that they would not only love and meet their need for sweet, but would provide them with a nutritional impact full of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients?

When we decided to go sugar free at our house I got a lot of looks from other people and questions about how can I deny them all the yummy things that are part of a regular kids life, like cupcakes, chocolates and cookies. The truth is they have never been denied, they still enjoy all those things at our house and more. The difference is not in the taste which is just as yummy if not more so than the ‘original’ – but in what they are made of. We have simply switched to natural sweeteners and added in foods that are super high in nutrients. And honestly they not only gobble them up but request them.

It is easy to make the switch at your house too. Just start slowly adding in one or two recipes and go from there. Make it easy. Plus if you get the kids involved in making these healthy sweet treats your chances of them eating them goes up simply because they have helped.

Also starting with ingredients and foods that they like is key to success when getting kids to eat and try new things. If you pick something they like, they are already interested and will be more open. This is why just before Valentine’s Day in our Mini Chefs class I chose two healthy sweet treat recipes for kids that were chocolate. You should have seen the kids eyes get big and how excited they got when I told them what we were making that day was chocolate (same thing happened when we made the chocolate banana smoothie a few weeks ago).

They were all so excited to try it when it was ready to eat, even though they had watched some ‘weird’ ingredients go in like avocado and chia seeds. Chocolate overruled it all.

Raw Chocolate Pudding

The thing I love about this recipe is the fact that you simply put all the ingredients in the blender and mix. In just minutes you have a smooth, fluffy and delicious chocolate pudding.

2 ripe bananas, peeled and slicedhealthy sweet treats for kids

1 avocado, pitted and peeled

2 tbsp. raw cacao powder (this is different than cocao powder)

1 tsp. agave nectar

Put all ingredients in 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. *it’s sweet as is, but if you’d like to increase sweetness add more agave nectar to taste – agave is twice as sweet as sugar so use small amounts and taste before adding more 

Avocados are fantastic additions to recipes. Not only are they mild in taste, they are high in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin K, B5, B6, C and E as well as Omega 3’s. They offer a lot of health benefits like improved mood, reduced stress, good eye health and more. They are also a great food that actually curbs sugar cravings! Because they are high in healthy fats they slow digestion and prevent the body’s blood sugar from spiking after eating. It is also true that when we crave sugar it is often because we are missing certain nutrients and adding a healthy fat will curb this craving as the body becomes satisfied.

No Bake Chocolate Macaroons

1 bananahealthy sweet treats for kids

¼ c. coconut oil, melted

¼ c. pure maple syrup

½ tsp. vanilla

6 tbsp. cacao powder

1.5 c. unsweetened coconut

1 tbsp. chia seeds

small pinch sea salt

In a medium size bowl mash banana well until there are no clumps. Stir in melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Sift cacao powder and stir into banana mixture. Stir in chia seeds, coconut and salt.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop a teaspoon at a time onto parchment paper. Put in freezer for 20 minutes or until firm. Store in freezer until ready to enjoy.

Makes approx 15 macaroons

Chia seeds are not only high in dietary fibre and protein as well as many other vitamins, they make you feel full as well as being an ingredient that stabilizes blood sugar. Cacao powder is rich in vitamins and nutrients such as iron, antioxidants and high in B Vitamins. Cacao does differ from cocoa as though they come from the same plant the difference is in how they are processed and the amount of nutrients that are left in it. Cacao is also considered a superfood while cocoa is not.healthy sweet treats for kids

So have fun, enjoy! not only will the kids love these healthy sweet treats you may find that you love them to (I have a hard time eating only one chocolate macaroon at a time…) They are quick easy and so yummy you and your kids will forget that they are actually good for you.

Next week pancakes with super cool faces!

Everything Chocolate

IMG_4653Rich dark chocolate melting in your mouth, delighting the palate as it brings your tastebuds to life and activates natural soothing in the brain, making us feel oh so good.

Chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and Romans, has long since been considered an aphrodisiac, a treat associated with love and romance. Women love it, men crave it. Not only is it a popular gift, but a popular treat as well.

It’s no wonder that during the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday long associated with love and romance, 58 million pounds of chocolates are sold, being the third largest holiday in sales of this popular treat (Halloween being first with Easter as the second).

The good news is that chocolate is actually good for you, as it contains fat, produces natural opiates which soothe nerves and make us feel good, as well as natural chemicals that lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (sounding pretty good doesn’t it?) Chocolate provides even more health benefits when made with cacao instead of cocoa, both derived from the same bean but processed differently, creating a superfood (cacao) that is rich in vitamins and minerals (getting better and better all the time).

IMG_4647Chocolate is also one of those things that goes with and can be used in just about anything, creating a myriad of delights for the palate to enjoy, a sensation of pleasure and joy in our human experience.

Since I have discovered how to make my own chocolate at home, (ready in about 10 minutes this really is a quick simple and easy way to make chocolate), we have not only been able to enjoy more chocolate in our home, but also enjoy lots of great things around the holidays.

For instance, this Valentine’s Day, we will enjoy heart shaped chocolates, Chocolate Dream Pie, Chocolate Truffles and if the spirit moves me, I may even make Chocolate Cupcakes with chocolate icing of course (even better these recipes are sugar free and dairy free). I love doing it up around the holidays and seeing what kind of fun things I can create; and the kids look forward to it!

Making your own chocolate is very easy, all you need is cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla and natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, pure maple syrup, etc.) I have a detailed post on how to make chocolate, as well as one on possible additions or variations you could use to flavor or fill your yummy chocolates.

IMG_4655This chocolate mix is also great for making Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (simply dip fresh strawberries in warm melted chocolate before it sets) or using it for Chocolate Fondue.

Other chocolate delights I have discovered, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or other, are Chocolate Macaroons (could shape them into little hearts for Valentine’s), Chocolate Pudding (one with chia seeds, one simple chocolate), Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Waffles, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Smoothies and even Chocolate Marshmallows! And I love that they are all dairy free and naturally sweetened! On holidays, like Valentines, I often have a hard time picking only a few things to make 🙂

IMG_4658So now you know, you can live guilt free this Valentine’s Day and enjoy your chocolate; or you can venture out and make your own for yourself or to share with others (but you may not want to). Of course with anything, regardless of how good it is for you, everything in moderation (I know I just took all the fun out of it – but here’s the thing you can make MORE or try a new chocolate recipe, another version of chocolate).

So enjoy your chocolate with a great big smile this Valentine’s Day, and if no one gives you any, go get your own, it’s ok 🙂

*The majority of these recipes can be found on my blog or I have linked them to the appropriate site for you. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!

Sugar the Good, the Bad and Why it’s important to know the difference

teaspoon_of_sugar_photoThere have been an increasing number of articles recently on sugar; the astounding amounts we consume to the effects it has our body. From National Geographic to MacLean’s magazine they produce astounding stats about sugar. As a result this has spring boarded various responses from the public either agreeing with these articles or disputing them.

Recently I read a blog post on todaysparent.com that stated that ‘fear mongering‘ does not teach our children how to eat healthy and that labeling sugar bad or good was not a good thing. I agree with this blogger in part but I also disagree with her as well.

It is important to distinguish between the different types of sugar. Sugar in natural forms, such as fruit and honey, are good for us and we do need it to assist our body’s functions (as Jen Pinarski states). It is the refined sugars, the ones that are processed from their original forms and remove things such as fiber or other beneficial ingredients that are the concern. Things like white sugar, molasses and corn syrups to name a few.

Fruit has natural sugar that our bodies metabolize and use positively

Fruit has natural sugar that our bodies metabolize and use positively

It is also the amount of these sugars that we are consuming in our daily lives, as 80% of our foods do have some form of processed sugar added to it. This is what creates the astounding amounts that we consume on a daily basis. Yes some of it is choice and yes many people can read labels but many people don’t. They assume that because it is tomato sauce it is good for them and there is no problem, but many brands add processed sugar.

I agree that we need to educate our children about the pros and cons of sugar, and teach them the differences between natural and processed sugars. But how does a kid get that processed sugars are addictive, suppress our immune systems, and create mood swings? They don’t. We have been sugar free in our home for almost 3 years now and I still struggle with my oldest son understanding why we do this. There are days he’s cool with it and there are days that he’s not; and in our case he is one of these people who is highly affected by sugar and it wreaks havoc on our lives when he consumes it). I am trying to teach him that he is a leader for others and that he is sick less or for not as long (to name a few benefits). It’s over his head, he doesn’t care. He wants the coffee crisp that the kid beside him is having, because its prepackaged and ‘everyone else’ has one. Never mind that I can offer him an alternative that is pretty much the same but made with whole ingredients and natural sweeteners.

food_labelsIt is the parents/ adults we need to educate first, teach them how to make healthy choices for their families and how to teach their children to do so as well. I have always felt the best way to teach children is to model, they are so impressionable and often do and say what they’ve seen rather than what we have said. Not that saying informing to is not effective, we need to do that as well, but our actions truly speak the loudest. So parents need to read labels, switch out soft drinks for healthier choices, etc. and do it happily. The kids will start to do it as well. My son often will pick up something and read a label before he asks for it, he knows what to look for and the twins do as well, though they cannot read yet, they are doing the action and know why 🙂

Almond Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Almond Butter Rice Krispie Treats

It’s the titles of these articles that are the problem. Though they catch people’s attention and are quite factual, the titles such as “death”, “anti-sugar”, “fear mongering” are the things that turn me off and send me looking for another source. But no matter how it is titled, the bottom line is processed sugars are bad, there’s no two buts about it. If it was invented today it would not be approved for consumption. It is an addictive substance that has many negative effects on our body. This does not take the joy out of eating but allows us the opportunity to get creative and find sweet healthy alternatives (with natural sweeteners). I can make quite the variety of treats that taste yummy and one would not know the difference if it was sweetened with processed or natural sugar.

It also provides us all with the opportunity to learn more about our foods and where they come from, how they affect our bodies. I believe the government and schools have to start somewhere and I fully support them removing pop and candy machines from their buildings. Perhaps their message is a bit skewed in how they’re communicating it, but they can work on that. The next step is to offer healthy choices in lieu of, as well as teaching children why a is better than b.

A Few of my Favorite Muffins

8I have fond memories of muffins growing up. This may sound a little weird but I was a competitive swimmer for many years and that meant early morning practices before breakfast. My mother would often make muffins and after practice we’d have muffins and juice before being dropped off at school. As a result, my Mom tried all kinds of different muffin recipes, so that we could enjoy variety and not get bored with the same old banana muffins 3 times a week.

IMG_2690One of my favorite muffin recipes was one that was filled with jam. Though not quite as tasty as a jam filled donut, I loved these because of the ‘surprise in the middle’. I also found them to be quite tasty and very moist due to the yogurt that is in the recipe.

Of course when we moved to eating dairy free I had to forgo these muffins for a while. Until recently, when I discovered some of the non-dairy yogurts out there. Though most varieties are made from soy, you can find brands that are made using coconut or almond milk as well.

With this discovery, I was now able to recreate these delectable muffins! Of course I had to experiment a bit as I needed to substitute the sugar as well and although most natural sugars can be substituted one for one, I find that when you are also altering another ingredient sometimes the sweetness factor needs to be adjusted to.

This was the case with these muffins as though the kids gobbled them up the first time I made them, both my older son and I felt they could be a little sweeter. So the next time I made them I experimented a little adding a little more coconut sugar then the recipe called for. As I result, I did eventually find the perfect combination.

nancys-cultured-soy-plain-58308The yogurt I use is Nancy’s Organic Cultured Soy, plain. Though they offer many different flavors as well. It is a little thicker than dairy yogurt but definitely works. (Also works fabulously in the Cheesy Greens Macaroni dish that I make, which is soooo good!) I have yet to try a coconut milk yogurt but imagine that this would work out the same.

So if you’re up for a yummy nutritious treat with a surprise in the middle, give these muffins a try. And if you do use the coconut milk yogurt come back and comment and let others know how it worked out.

Jam Filled Muffins

1 1/2 c. flour

1/4 c. + 1/8 c. coconut sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 c. Earth Balance vegan spread

1 c. non dairy yogurt

1/4 c. almond milk (or favorite non-dairy milk)

1 egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Favorite sugar free jam

In a medium bowl blend dry ingredients. In a small saucepan melt Earth Balance. Take saucepan off heat and stir in yogurt, almond milk. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and stir until moistened.

*Line cupcake pan with liners or grease well. Spoon in half the batter. Place about 1 tsp. of jam in each muffin, then top with remaining batter.

Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

*Note: I have found with these muffins if you have the cupcake liners that that is best due to the jam sometimes overflowing a bit.