To Dip or not to Dip?

IMG_4481There’s nothing like a good dip at a party! Something warm, cheesy and delectable to dip that cracker or tortilla chip in. Yum! Of course there are lots of other yummy dips that are served cool and aren’t as heavy or dense as the cheesy ones. In fact I have discovered some great ones over the past few months, usually from sampling at Community Natural Foods, our local natural food store, such as a sweet carrot dip and spinach dip.

I think dips make great snacks, not only are they good at parties but they are also great for that late night munching, especially if you are looking for something a little more healthy. Things like hummus, black bean dip and the above veggie dips are very tasty and satisfying. Though I have to say sometimes I just want a nice creamy, cheesy warm dip, full of flavor and taste!

That’s why when I discovered this yummy dip back in the spring I was in heaven. I was hosting a Pampered Chef party and this was the recipe I chose to try. The original recipe was so full of dairy but I knew I could substitute and it would turn out fantastic. And I was right, it was fantastic!

images-36I was so pleased that I now had a yummy dairy free creamy cheese warm dip to make (I know that’s a mouthful). It is a super simple recipe, done all in your microwave (though I am not a huge fan of making it in the microwave I have yet to figure out how to get around that). It takes no time at all to make. It’s a great dip for parties, snacking or New Year’s Eve gatherings, made with ingredients that you’ll likely have around at home (unless this is your first recipe that’s dairy free than maybe not, but trust me the dairy free version is worth it and provides lots of health benefits. Plus it has Kale, that’s a superfood)

Kale and Artichoke Dip

1 – 12oz jar artichokes, drained

1 – 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts

2 c. Daiya mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 c. grated vegan parmesan cheese (I use Go Veggie Soy Parmesan)

1/2 c. veganaiseIMG_4479

1/2 c. vegan sour cream

2 cloves, garlic

3 c. fresh kale leaves, stems removed and torn into pieces

baked pita chips, triscuit crackers or cut up vegetables for dipping

Place artichokes and water chestnuts in a manual food processor. Process until coarsley chopped and place in a microwave safe glass or ceramic covered dish (8×8 square or round).

Add mozzarella, parmesan, veganaise and sour cream. Mince garlic and add to baker, or use garlic press.

Microwave on High for 2 minutes until cheeses begin to melt. Remove from microwave and mix with spatula until well blended.

Place kale in food processor and process until finely chopped. Add kale to cheese mixture and stir in well. Put covered dish back in microwave and cook on High for 2-3 minutes. Stirring halfway through, until hot and bubbly.

Serve immediately with chips or veggies. Serves 30

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

IMG_2676Well I’ve finally decided to take the plunge! This is the year, the one where I go big or go home! For the last couple of years a number of people have been suggesting to me that I write a recipe book. There are lots of books out there on eating gluten free and some dairy free, but very few sugar free and often if they are dairy or gluten free there may still be sugar present.

For a number of reasons I delayed and delayed in doing this, even though I was confident that it would many people would be interested in it and likely be a success. For whatever reason I have decided it’s time and am diligently outlining and creating.

Part of the fun in creating is that I am taking my old tried and true family recipes and methodically, one by one, making the appropriate adjustments and trying it out. I am a big believer in making sure it works out before actually sharing it and publishing it for others. It only makes sense to me. Besides my family is enjoying being my guinea pigs and making sure that it tastes good 🙂

IMG_2674On the weekend I tried out my Mum’s coffee cake recipe, which I have always loved, making the appropriate adjustments. I was pleased that it turned out fabulously and to be honest if you had tasted the original and the sugar free one side by side you would not know the difference. I guess that is one advantage I have growing up with these recipes as I know what the originals taste like, so I can compare as to whether the new versions measure up.

Everyone gobbled it up and is now asking for more. But I am onto the next recipe to try…which I have not decided which one yet, but I am sure it’ll come to me soon enough. In the meantime if you are looking for a sugar and dairy free coffee cake, I would definitely give this one a try.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake


1/2 c. Earth Balance vegan spreadIMG_2672

3/4 c. coconut sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3 eggs

1 c. vegan sour cream

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt


1/2 c. coconut sugar

1/2 c. walnuts, finely chopped

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan spread

Mix Earth Balance, coconut sugar, vanilla and eggs. Add vegan sour cream. Mix separately flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients into sour cream mixture.

Spon half batter into well greased bundt pan. Sprinkle half topping over batter. Spoon in rest of batter. Pat firmly with remaining topping.

Bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes.

Mushroom Turnovers

IMG_0799When I was in Junior High, a group of my girlfriends and I were into having dinner parties. We took turns hosting, dressed up and made a fancy meal complete with dessert for everyone. It was fun, each host making different meals, decorating the table, and trying new things.

On the evening that I hosted I, wanting to ensure everyone could enjoy what I was making, checked with the girls in regards to any allergies and/ or dislikes. Interestingly, they all came back with a resounding, “We don’t like mushrooms”. I clarified whether this was a dislike or an allergy and when they confirmed it was simply a dislike, I secretly smiled.

I had found this fabulous recipe for mushroom turnovers which I was dying to try and since they weren’t allergic to it… I made them and served them as the appetizer, saying nothing about what was in them. They LOVED them! No one noticing at all that it was mushrooms that they were eating. They thought it was ground beef.

After we were done the appetizer I then revealed to them that they had actually eaten mushrooms and no ground beef was present whatsoever. They were surprised (and thankfully not mad), and we went on to enjoy the rest of our meal and evening (which I have no idea what the rest of the meal was).

Needless to say, this recipe became a family classic in my  house. My Mum and sisters using it over the years for many events and parties. My Mum often has 4 dozen or more in the freezer at Christmas, ready to pull out and heat up whenever we want snacks or guests pop by. I have adopted the same philosophy and you’ll easily find turnovers (and other goodies) in my freezer this time of year.

The original recipe does contain dairy, calling for cream cheese and sour cream, but I have been able to adapt the recipe. Using vegan cream cheese and vegan sour cream they are still just as fabulous! (which having had the original I can fairly compare)

Mushroom Turnovers


9 oz. vegan cream cheese

1/2 c. Earth Balance vegan spread

1 1/2c. flour

In a medium bowl, cream vegan cream cheese and Earth Balance. Add the flour and work with fingers or a pastry blender until smooth. Chill well for at least 30 minutes.


3 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan spread

1 large onion, finely choppedwpid-SourCream3-318x270

*1/2 lb. mushrooms, finely chopped

1/4 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. sea salt

pinch black pepper

2 tbsp. flour

1/4 c. vegan sour cream

In a skillet, melt the Earth Balance. Add onion and brown lightly. Then add mushrooms and cook, stirring often about 3 minutes.

Add the thyme, salt and pepper and sprinkle with flour. Stir in sour cream and cook until gently thickened.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Roll the pastry dough to 1/8″ thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using a biscuit cutter, cut into 3″ round circles.2585_enlarge

Place a teaspoon of mushroom filling on each circle and fold over so that the edges touch. Press the edges together using fingers and prick the tops to allow for steam to escape.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

*To finely chop mushrooms I use a food chopper from The Pampered Chef. This makes it quick and easy to get them to the right size.

Makes about 3 dozen

Pumpkin Cheesecake – Absolutely to die for!

It’s coming… Thanksgiving and all things pumpkin! Big feasts, meals with friends and did I mention pumpkin? I love pumpkin and all things related to it, especially pumpkin pie. And Thanksgiving seems to be the only time of year that I make or get some.

Of course with any pie you can make any kind any time you want. But I seem to fall into the  times of the year when they are most prominent, as I imagine do many of us. So though I love pumpkin pie and it is my favorite, I do only get it once a year.

Every year at Thanksgiving I decide I am going to try a new pumpkin recipe, as my sister often makes things like pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin tarts and pumpkin cheesecake. And though I love to branch out and try new things I tend to fall back to my pie. What can I say? It seems just wrong to not have it.

This year I truly did branch out and I made a pumpkin cheesecake for the first time. Not specifically for Thanksgiving, because of course I will make pie, but around the right time 🙂 I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked really good and thought that I would try it.

Being dairy free I thought that I would just have to avoid cheesecake altogether. During the summer my friend decided to try a tofu chocolate cheesecake, which gave me hope. I thought that it would prove to be quite good. Not so much. Though not terrible we both agreed that we would not make it again. Then, I remembered that they make non dairy cream cheese and I had tried it before and liked it, so why not just substitute that into a regular cheesecake recipe? This got me very excited so I went to work.

After I got over just how much cream cheese this recipe called for; I went out got the ingredients and looked at what other substitutions I needed to make. The crust was a bit of a challenge as it called for graham wafers, but I came up with a solution using almond mash leftover from making almond milk, as I had done something similar making a pie before. I substituted coconut sugar for the sugar and then of course the non dairy cream cheese and sour cream (yes this recipe called for sour cream which was another reason why this particular cheesecake recipe intrigued me).

Now this recipe is not one that you can just whip up and have ready in an hour. In fact when I finally went to make it I looked at the recipe, and in reading it more closely almost aborted the whole idea. It was a lot of time, a number of steps and would not be fully ready until the next day (as when it was finished baking you had to let it sit in the fridge overnight).

Let me tell you it is totally worth it! This cheescake is absolutely fabulous, moist, creamy and flavourful. All the kids asked for a second piece and D’Wayne looked like he was in heaven. It was absolutely delicious! I think Matthew even licked his plate and then asked for a third piece of cheesecake (to which of course I said no).

So if you are a fan of cheesecake and even a remote fan of pumpkin this recipe is worth the time and effort put into it. And the nice thing is, dairy free, sugar free, gluten free all equals guilt free and will impress every one of your guests this Thanksgiving.

Or you could just go with plain old pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake


12 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan spread

2 1/2 c. almond mash (leftover from making almond milk)

1/4 c. coconut sugar

dash of salt


4 – 8 oz. vegan cream cheese

1/4 c. vegan sour cream

2 1/2 c. coconut sugar

15 oz. canned pumpkin

6 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tbsp. vanilla

1 tsp. sea salt

2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon or 2 drops of Cinnamon Bark essential oil

1 tsp. ginger or 1 drop Ginger essential oil

1/4 tsp. cloves or 1 drop Clove Bud essential oil

Postion rack in center of oven. Preheat to 325 F.

Brush a 10 inch springform pan with 1 tbsp. of Earth Balance. In a bowl, stir the remaining Earth Balance in with almond mash, coconut sugar and a pinch of salt. Press mixture into bottom of pan and up the sides. Bake until golden brown about 15-20 minutes.

Cool on a rack, then wrap outside of pan in tin foil and place in a roasting pan.

In a large mixing bowl beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add coconut sugar and beat until just light. Add sour cream, then pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, 1 tsp. sea salt and spices and until just combined. Pour into cooled crust.

Gently place roasting pan into oven (do not pull the rack out). Pour boiling water into roaster until water is about half way up springform pan. Bake until the outside of cheesecake is set but the center is still loose, about 1 h 45 min. Turn off the oven and open the door briefly to let out some heat.

Close oven door and let cheesecake sit for 1 more hour. Carefully remove from roasting pan and let cool on rack. Run a knife around the edges, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

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The Importance of One on One

Hiking at Moraine Lake

In many of the parenting articles I have read over the years they have often suggested that as the number of children in your family increased that you should make time to spend with each child one on one. Give them each a bit of time with just you and them, and with each parent individually. Yet as the number of children in the household increases the amount of ‘leisure time’ seems to decrease comparatively as there are more activities, more friends to play with and more things to do in general, like cleaning and laundry!

Where do you find the time exactly? The thing I have learned and been gently reminded of, is that kids don’t need large blocks of time or need to do fancy and exciting things during with you. They just want some time with you, it doesn’t matter to them how long or what you are doing; just that you spend time with them. Of course there are times when they would like to do something a little more involved and exciting (like laser tag, dinner or a movie), but they don’t always need that kind of activity with you on a regular basis. Your one on one focused attention is what they desire.

A prime example of this for me was this past Saturday. I had to take Matthew, my oldest, to pick out his frames and order his glasses. Our optometrist is up in Signal Hill, which is northwest Calgary and a bit of a drive for us. I had the opportunity to do this with just Matthew as D’Wayne had offered to watch the twins while we went.

Luke and Mom

Matthew was super excited to go. I had asked him to shower before we left, washing his hair and even suggested he dress up. He not only did as I asked but combed and parted his hair and put on a shirt and tie! He was bouncing and excited in the car as we drove to the optometrist, his eyes sparkling and chatting about this and that. It is not often that we get to go somewhere and have an uninterupted conversation, as usually the twins are chiming in or have something of their own to say.

He noticed and mentioned how I had showered and put on make-up and I responded, “Well if you’re dressing up then I should too.” He just smiled. Once we got to the optometrist we were literally only there for 10 minutes, as Matthew already knew which frames he wanted and it was just the details to sort out. I was kind of disappointed knowing that our time was so short. That’s when I decided we’d stop at Community Natural Foods on the way home. So we popped over there picking up a ‘few things’ (I had intended on only getting some vegan cream cheese but ended up with a few more items, especially with Matthew picking things up and asking to buy them. And honestly in that store he is asking for dried mangos and cheese, not chocolate bars and candy, very hard to say no).

Even this time in the Community Natural was fun, bonding and a way to continue to get to know each other. Yes he did ask me for many things, of which some I said yes and others no, but it was great. We laughed, we enjoyed.

Chloe and Mom

As I was driving home I realized then that the time I spend with him one on one does not always have to be fancy, simply focused and interactive. I have always made the effort to spend time with just him, either taking him to a movie, going for a walk or playing a board game at home once the twins are in bed. But I realized in that moment that whether it be a trip to the optometrist or a little grocery shopping as long as it’s him and me that was all that mattered. And if I could give him more moments like this, even at home, if only small, that that would make such a difference in our relationship. As I have even noticed that although sometimes I have to fight with him to come and dry the dishes, that once he is there, he is quite chatty and happy and we have some great conversations and connection happening.

I feel as parents yes it is important that we spend one on one time with each of our children but that we need to give ourselves a break and realize that it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, just a happy and enjoyable few moments (or more when possible) where we can connect with each other, and remember who we are to each other and in this world. To listen and recognize the beauty in our children and the great gifts that they bring to our world, as well as to share who we are and our wisdom with them. That is connection, that is bonding and that is something we don’t always achieve with all the kids together at once. It is not only rewarding for the child, but will be extremely rewarding for you as well.

Matthew and Mom

Delicious Dairy Free Dips

Matthew and Chloe enjoying a cucumber

While having all the kids at home over the Christmas holidays I discovered that my kids will eat pretty much anything, that they are not fussy eaters. I also discovered that whatever I put in front of them they ate. So even with the surplus of yummy sweet treats around, if I put  fruit or vegetables in front of them that is what they would eat. Not that they did not ask for the sweet treats mind you, I did too at some points. But I noticed that when I was prepping a veggie tray and Matthew came wandering by, he would pick up a carrot or celery stick and start eating – without being asked! – and then he would come back for more. I felt I was onto something…

Now my kids will eat their fruit and veggies regardless if there is a dip to go with it or not. Which is great because sometimes when I am running out of time, the dip is the thing that does not get done! But they and I do enjoy a yummy dip to go with it. In fact, often Chloe will eat only the dip, which I know defeats the purpose, but the dips I provide have good stuff in them too so it is ok. Sometimes though I do use it as a bargaining tool, “more dip if you eat your carrot stick”, not always the best tactic in getting kids to eat I know, but I think you would agree that we all do it to some degree.

So today I am sharing you with some of my favorite dips that are great with a variety of things, fruit, veggies, fish even, depending on the dip. (My sister made a fabulous dinner at Christmas of fish and chips and I could not get enough of dipping my fish in the Peppery Dip, it was delicious!)

Dill Dipgreat with veggies and/ or tortilla chips

1/3 c. veganaise

1/4 c. vegan sour cream*

1 tsp. parsley flakes

1/2 tsp. dill weed

1/8 tsp. onion powder

1/16 tsp. celery salt

1/16 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.

Recipe can easily be doubled. Makes about 1/2 c. dip

Peppery Dip

1 c. veganaise

2 tbsp. grated onion

2 tsp. tarragon vinegar (can use regular vinegar and tarragon seasoning)

2 tbsp. chopped chives

2 tbsp. chili sauce

1/2 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/8 tsp. thyme

Mix all ingredients together. Serve with veggies, also great with fish!

With fruit I use this homemade caramel sauce that is made from dates. It is especially good with apples, but goes with any fruit well. All the dips will keep in the fridge for at least a few days, so make ahead of time or keep until later -that’s if you have any left 🙂

Enjoy and happy dipping!

*when I first started making dairy free dips I used Tofutti sour cream and cream cheese, a soy based product. I discovered that they use sugar in their product and since then have moved to using Earth Island, which has no sugar and I feel is a better product in general. Both work well and is up to you as the cook which one you’d like to choose – or maybe you have another favorite vegan sour cream 🙂