A Warm Drink on a Cold Day

warm capuccino-saidaonlineThere’s nothing like coming in on a cold day and enjoying a nice warm drink. Cuddling up on the couch, your hands surrounding the mug for warmth as the steam floats up and you inhale the beautiful scent of coffee, hot chocolate, tea or hot apple cider, to name a few.

It doesn’t matter what you have been doing, if you’ve been enjoying some time outside doing outdoor activities, toboganning, skating, skiing or even just shoveling the walk, there is something about that warm beverage that offers you comfort like nothing else.

My kids love cuddling up on the couch with their drinks and maybe some cookies or other treat and watching a movie, tucked up under blankets. Nice and cozy and relaxing.

warm-drinksOf course when we decided to eliminate sugar at our house we could no longer default to the hot chocolate mix we bought at the store (and we used to buy the big can, you know that one that is super tall and would last for months). I know in the good old days hot chocolate was simply milk heated with cocoa mixed into it, but it had been a long time since I’d done that. In fact I remember one time when I was little and my aunt was looking after us, she did just that, and my sisters and I looked at her like she had 3 heads and asked her what the heck she was doing. In the end she ended up making the instant stuff but I know now what I missed out on.

I really like the milk heated version as I find it to be richer and creamier, even though it does take a little bit more time and work to do so. What I do now for the kids is actually a little fancier than that (something I discovered in my Raw Chocolate Making class), but it is soooo yummy and also very good for you.

Now I use a mix of almond milk, cacao powder (considered a superfood and high in minerals such protein, zinc, and iron), natural sweetener of choice and depending on the day some added spices. It’s actually quite easy to do and tastes delicious! I also like that I can make it different every time depending on what I am feeling like that day.

Dairy Free Hot Chocolate

4 c. almond milk (or your choice of dairy free milk)HBC-DJ12-hot-chocolate-shrstock-48722137

3-4 tbsp. cacao powder

3-4 tbsp. natural sweetener (I usually use pure maple syrup, but you can use honey, stevia, etc.) *amount of sweetener depends on sweetener used and personal preference

spices – sprinkle of to taste cinnamon and cayenne, or lucuma powder and mesquite powder

Place all ingredients into blender. Turn on low, then turn up to high, blend well. Pour mixture into pot. Heat on medium to desired temperature. Pour into mugs and serve.

Serves 4

What other delectable hot drink recipes do you enjoy?

A Nice Tall Glass of Lemonade (freshly squeezed and sugar free!)

One of the many things I love about summer are all the cool summer treats to enjoy, such as popsicles, ice cream and a nice tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. There’s nothing like sitting out on the patio in the summer heat enjoying an iced cold drink (and maybe the company of friends if they’re available).

It’s such a pleasure to just sit and enjoy after working or playing outside. Often times my neighbor Sheila and I would be out working in our yards, perhaps stop to chat for a bit and then agree to hook up later on one deck or the other to pause for a drink, rest and a chat. My mouth is just watering thinking about it! It’s nice, it gives me pause in my day, some social time and something to look forward to. And to me it definitely terms the “Lazy Days of Summer”.

I used to buy the Minute Maid frozen lemonade mix where you just add water; but now that we are sugar free, I am no longer do that. So the other day I got inspired. I had always heard of people making their own fresh lemonade and knew it was fairly easy to do. I also knew that it required a lot of white sugar, but I wondered, is there a recipe out there that I can sweeten my lemonade with something else? Stevia is the sweetener that came to mind so I hopped on Google to find out.

Sure enough many of the recipes I found required this sugar syrup, but once I narrowed my search actually using the word ‘stevia’ (ha ha) I found some recipes that fit what I wanted. I found this recipe on the Nourishing Gourmet by Kim Harris, and is the one that I recently tested out.

I set out to the store ready to buy fresh lemons, excited to make lemonade that afternoon. And would you believe that Superstore had no lemons that morning? Not a single one in sight, I guess maybe the rest of the world decided to make fresh lemonade as well and had decided to stock up 🙂 No worries we made a quick stop at Sobeys, where they were actually on sale (see there was a reason) and got what I needed.

I used my juicer to juice the lemons which though I find can be just as much work as juicing them by hand; because you have to peel them before putting them into the juicer whereas by hand I would not have to – I seem to get more juice using the juicer.

Chloe and Luke were waiting patiently for their lemonade, climbing up onto the counter to see what I was doing. Asking periodically if it was ready yet. Once I had the lemon juice I added the water and then the stevia. The original recipe calls for 1/2 -1 tsp. but I found the lemonade to be quite tart with only this amount, so I ended up putting in 5 times that amount, 2 1/2 tsp. to get it to the taste that we like. I had used the stevia powder but am going to try using the drops next time as I was having trouble with the powder dissolving and mixing in. Which may have been why it took so much. I never even thought of using the drops until I read it in the comments on another website. I’ll try it out and let you know.

Luke, Chloe and Matthew all tested and enjoyed the lemonade, confirming that it was sweet enough. Especially Matthew who had taste tested a less sweeter version when I was adding sweetener. And the twins kept asking for more and more. In fact, I think they would have drank a less sweet version without any problems. Regardless we enjoyed it, it was easy to make and is good for us!

So if you’re looking for a nice tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day and you have a few lemons kicking around, try out this recipe. Not only will you get a nice vitamin C kick but you won’t have to worry about any sugar rushes for yourself or the kids! Now if you’ll excuse me I have to head out onto the patio…

Freshly Squeezed Homemade Sugar Free Lemonade

1 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4-6 lemons)

1/2 -1 tsp. stevia powder (or more to taste)*

6 c. water

Mix all ingredients together in pitcher. Add stevia to taste, start with less and add more as desired. Pour into a glass and enjoy! May serve chilled or over ice.

*may use 8-10 stevia drops in place of powder

Vanilla Bean Cake- a.k.a.Guilt Free Cake

Vanilla Bean Cake

When I tell people that we have completely eliminated sugar at our house I get a variety of responses – from “Good for you!” to shock and amazement “How did you do that?” I even have some people who swear they can’t live without their sugar fix, which I think is cute actually.

We originally made this choice due to Matthew’s needs but I feel that it has benefited us all. In fact, through my sugar free journey I have slowly been able to ‘convert’ some of my other family members. Not that I am on a mission to convert anyone, it is all personal choice and it is not for me or anyone else to get preachy and tell people what to do. But I do like talking about it and sharing what I have learned with others, and if it benefits them, then I am happy to have helped.

My family became interested in what I was doing as they were watching the changes I was making and how I was doing it. They became curious, so some of them decided to try it themselves, choosing to do so for different reasons. My mother has done quite a bit without sugar, now making bread, cookies, cakes, etc. She is also very accommodating when we come to visit and makes sure that she has food and meals for us that meet the no sugar requirement. Bless her!

I also have influenced my aunt and one of my sisters, so much so that they are coming to me for recipes and tips. They are learning themselves too how to adjust a recipe that they already have to meet their needs.

Once Upon a Time

My sister Cathy, currently of Vancouver, BC and part of the costume team for Once Upon a Time (I love that show!) came to me looking for a recipe for vanilla bean cake. I had come across this when working with Nina Manolson of Healthy Yummy Kids and Smokin’ Hot Mom. Cathy had tried a vanilla bean cake before without much success so was looking for a new recipe.

She tried the recipe I gave her as is but found that for her personal tastes it was a bit dry and needed a little something to spruce it up. So she adjusted and revised the recipe and now makes this moist delicious cake! Which I can vouch is true, as I got to have a piece this summer. She usually tops it with vanilla bean ice cream, but it is very good without.

It was so good that I asked her to send me her revised recipe to post on my blog and share with you folks. So here it is, enjoy! And it is a very healthy cake, dairy free, sugar free, gluten free and full of fibre, so go ahead have 2 pieces!

Vanilla Bean Cake

2 cups cooked white beans

Coconut Oil

6 eggs

3/4 tsp. liquid stevia

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/3 c. honey

1/4 c. coconut oil, liquified

1/3 c. coconut flour, sifted

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1.5 tsp. baking powder

1 fresh lemon

In a blender or food processor add white beans, rinsed and at room temperature (this is so they don’t cook the eggs or congeal the coconut oil), eggs, stevia, vanilla and honey. Puree well.

Then add to blender coconut oil, coconut flour, sea salt, baking powder and baking soda and puree well.

Transfer mixture from blender to a bowl. Add the zest of one lemon.  Fold in by hand.

Squeeze all the juice of the lemon into a cup and add 1 pkg.  (1 g) of stevia sweetner.  Stir and set aside until after the cake is out of the oven.

Pour mixture into a spring form pan, or a well greased 9” cake pan. Sprinkle fresh or frozen blueberries on the top.

Bake at 325 F for 55 minutes.  Check if it’s done by inserting a knife in the centre, if it comes out clean, it’s done.  Otherwise bake for  5-10 additional minutes, checking often so it doesn’t over bake.

Once cake is removed from the oven, let stand for 10 minutes.  Then, while still warm, pour lemon juice mixture over top of cake.

It is delicious warm and plain, or add a scoop of frozen dessert such as Organic Rice Dream Frozen Dessert.

Vanilla Bean Cake topped with yummy ice cream

Next week I will have my first guest blogger, Nina Manolson of Healthy Yummy Kids. She is a certified holistic health coach who believes and educates women and families how to live and eat well in a world that doesn’t. She has many tips and recipes on how to eat and live sugar free as well, so if you wish to continue your sugar free learning don’t miss her post next week!

Natural Sugar Substitutes

It’s been over a year now since we have completely eliminated sugar from our home. We did so because our oldest son, Matthew required it. We found that the effects of sugar on his body were too extreme, leaving him moody, angry and disruptive and it was also affecting his sleep at night. He would go to bed at a reasonable time, and I know it was reasonable because I checked around with other parents and experts, and it would take him almost an hour or more to fall asleep at night. Now as an adult I find it very frustrating when I go to bed and it takes me a while to fall asleep. I can only imagine my son’s frustrations around this.

It was a huge learning curve discovering what I could use instead of sugar and products that did not contain it. Because as we began our journey we discovered very quickly that sugar is in almost everything.

The biggest challenge was finding yummy alternatives for Matthew that equated to what the other kids were having, and all the foods that he enjoyed and was used to, such as chocolate, cake, pies and muffins. With diligence I rolled up my sleeves and have been able to find replacements for all these things, as you have seen with some of the recipes on my blog in previous posts. It was just a matter of learning what the natural sugar substitutes were that he could have and how to easily substitute them in a recipe. Once I started looking I found that there were many to choose from and I had a lot of them already in my home.

Here is what I have learned/ discovered to be great substitutes for sugar in recipes. What you choose as the substitute will depend on your recipe as well as personal preference. Many of these natural sweeteners also have great health benefits as well, such as being rich in vitamins and minerals or aiding in the prevention of certain ailments and diseases.

Honey

Honey -choose a honey that is local to you. It has been shown that local honey provides immunity for you against environmental illnesses because the bees are local to your area. Honey has many other health benefits as well such as being a natural energy booster and remedy for many ailments. I use honey as a sugar substitute in crumble and muffins as well as in my bread recipes.

Agave nectar – simply the nectar from the agave plant. Make sure you get a good quality brand as some agaves are more processed with more additives. Ojio agave by Ulitmate Superfoods is a good quality one. When substituting agave for sugar use 3/4 to 1/2 the amount as agave is 25% sweeter than sugar. You also reduce your liquids in your recipe because the agave is a liquid itself, by 1/4 cup. Agave is great in anything but I use it mostly in cakes, muffins and pies.

Maple Syrup

Maple syrup – use 100% pure. If you are using the processed kind then it is not a natural sweetener and you might as well use sugar. This is great in icing, marinades and glazes.

Stevia – is a strong leaf powder that is very sweet, also found in a liquid form. It is considerably sweeter than sugar so you use 1 tsp. stevia to 1 cup of sugar when substituting. It also has many health benefits such as reduced blood pressure and aids in digestion. Stevia is great in cakes and muffins, but also for your coffee, tea, or to sweeten other drinks.

Coconut sugar -comes from the nectar of the flowers of a coconut tree, and is available in a granulated or liquid form. Rich in vitamins such as potassium, zinc and iron. Coconut sugar is great because it melts like brown sugar, so I find that this works well in crumbles, on oatmeal or things like apple cinnamons when you want to create a syrupy texture.

Date Sugar

Date sugar -is made from dried dates and adds a rich sweetness to recipes. It does not melt or dissolve in liquids. When using date sugar substitute 2/3 cup to 1 cup of the sugar, as it is sweeter than sugar. I use date sugar in some bread recipes, muffins, pancakes or waffles.

Yacon syrup -sweetener extracted from the roots of the yacon plant. Some of yacon’s health qualities are strengthening the immune system and calcium absorption. Use 3/4 cup of yacon to 1 cup of sugar.

Barley Malt – is a wonderful replacement for molasses and is made from sprouted or malted barley. I use this in some cookie recipes, and my homemade baked beans. Yum!

Coconut Nectar

Coconut nectar – naturally sweet, nutrient rich “sap” from coconut tree blossoms. High in amino acids, minerals and vitamin C. It can be used just like agave or maple syrup in recipes instead of sugar. I have only used it so far in cookies and they have turned out delicious!

Fruit is also a great natural sweetener, using apples (applesauce, make sure there is not sugar added) or bananas can add the sweetness you desire.

The best thing to do is experiment with these sweeteners, determine which ones work best in your recipes and which flavors you prefer. It can be fun to experiment in the kitchen as long as you are prepared to ‘let it go’ if one doesn’t turn out so well 🙂 Personally I have had success with my substitutions and if you follow these guidelines you’ll have no trouble whatsoever and soon it will become second nature, just like it is for me!