Healthy Holiday Baking Recipe #1: Candy Cane Breton Brittle

Dear readers,

I’m thrilled that my holidays has officially begun, despite the ice storm raging outside, and I can finally relax and enjoy this time with family and friends, and have some personal me time as well. 🙂  It’s been a crazy past two weeks trying to balance everything from Christmas shopping, personal appointments and commitments to work demands  etc.

During these past two intense weeks I also began my holiday baking.  In fact, I have been baking daily for about a week now.  I have decided that this year I just want to bake for family and friends as gifts. While it is time- consuming, it is also very pleasurable and rewarding!

I’m super excited to share with you two easy and quick yummy recipes that was a big hit with my family and friends, and these baked goods also look very festive as part of a dessert platter for any party this holiday season!

Here’s recipe #1: Candy  Cane Breton Brittle

*I got this Breton Brittle recipe from a classmate in my cooking class; I altered it slightly to make it gluten-free, dairy-free and “Christmas-y” too!

CandyCaneBretonBrittle

Makes: 1 pan

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: about 20 minutes

 

Ingredients:

Gluten-Free Crackers (I used Glutino’s Gluten Free Crackers, see: http://www.glutino.com/products/crackers/)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup organic coconut palm sugar

1 cup vegan margarine

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used this one that is dairy-free and gluten-free: http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/chocolate-for-baking/mini-chips/)

1/2 cup crushed candy canes

 

Optional:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts (instead of crushed candy canes)

 

Instructions:

  1. Line the bottom and sides of a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Arrange a layer of crackers on the foil/parchment paper.  Fill in spaces with broken crackers.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and margarine.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil and appears “frothy”.  Keep stirring and don’t let the mixture burn!
  4. Pour the mixture evenly over the crackers.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 6 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips.  When the chips become soft, spread evenly over the cracker mixtures.
  7. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
  8. Chill until chocolate is set.
  9. Break into pieces to serve.
  10. Enjoy!! 🙂

 

Special Notes:

-The longer you let the sugar/butter mixture “froth”, the harder the caramel will be.  If you like a softer caramel, pour it on the crackers right after it comes to a boil.

Here’s a picture of how the caramel should look when it is frothy:

frothycaramel

-I used 1/2 cup of organic coconut palm sugar instead of an entire cup of brown sugar because I like the fact that the organic coconut palm sugar has a low glycemic index (this holiday treat is so sweet already so trying to look for a way to “lower” a bit of the sugar level and make it slightly “healthier”).  Plus, it has a richer caramel and/or butterscotch flavour than brown sugar.  I wish an entire cup of organic coconut palm sugar could have been used to make the caramel.  Unfortunately while experimenting with only a cup of coconut palm sugar, I discovered it wasn’t combining well with the margarine, so a little bit of brown sugar had to be added in order for the caramel to form.

 

Recipe #2 for healthy holiday baking is on its way soon so stay tuned! 🙂

Happy Baking!!

 

Cheers, Violet

 

BretonBrittleSanta

Freshly-Baked Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread Photo

 

So I was on a pumpkin baking frenzy, trying to finish up the pumpkin puree I had stored.  Unfortunately I ran out of gluten-free flour, but had some whole wheat flour left from before I became gluten-free. Therefore, I decided to use it to make some pumpkin bread for my classmates from my cooking class and even had extra to share with a friend.

According to everyone, the pumpkin bread is very healthy, fresh and tastes “organic”.

Here’s the recipe to this high fibre and low sugar pumpkin bread that will go nicely with your cup of milk/tea/coffee in the morning! 🙂

 

Makes: 1 loaf

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

 

Special Note:

-To make it sugar-free, you can choose not to add in the honey.

 

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

 

Wet Ingredients

2 large eggs

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree

 

Optional:

If you have sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and raisins, mix them together and you can sprinkle a handful of them on top of the loaf.

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Make a hole in the centre and put in eggs, coconut oil, honey and vanilla; mix well.
  4. Fold in the pumpkin puree and mix.
  5. Pour batter into a well-greased large loaf pan.
  6. Sprinkle sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and raisins on top (if you have).
  7. Bake for about 30 minutes; check if it’s completely done by inserting a toothpick to see if it comes out clean.
  8. Let bread cool completely, or wait about 10-15 minutes to eat it freshly hot/warm. :)

 

Healthy Pumpkin Raisin Muffins

Life has been very crazy busy lately.  For example, within one week (last week), I witnessed 3 beautiful weddings, new beginnings for 3 amazing couples, and experienced the passing of a loved one.  Such is the circle of life, and the joys and sorrows that is all part of living.  The only thing we can do is enjoy and appreciate every moment, including the ups and downs of life, and just go with the flow; and cherish memories.

Today I finally have a chance to really sit back, and reflect upon what happened the past week, also take comfort and joy in baking on this rainy day. 🙂

Fortunately my father still has an appetite and a sweet tooth, despite his disease.  I know he secretly craves his Tim Hortons’ muffins but he is no longer allowed to eat “outside” or processed food, so homemade food is the way to go.

Using only natural ingredients such as pumpkins, bananas and raisins, I dedicate this Fall-inspired gluten-free and dairy-free muffin recipe to him.  He really liked eating these muffins that I made especially for him!

I hope you enjoy making and eating these yummy, light and moist muffins with your loved ones! 🙂

 

PumpkinRaisinMuffins

 

Makes: 24

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-To make it sugar-free, you can choose not to add in the maple syrup.  I added it, because my father does have a sweet tooth, and I think maple syrup is a healthy natural sweetener.  See: health and nutritional benefits of eating maple syrup: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=115

 

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

2 cups Gluten-Free Oat Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oat Flour)

2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Wet Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened pumpkin

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegan buttery spread, melted

4-5 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 cup raisins

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  5. Slowly add raisins into batter.
  6. Fill each baking cup evenly with the batter.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Let the muffins cool completely, or eat one while still warm. 🙂

 

 

A Festive Fall Dessert: Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cake

When Fall arrives, all I think about is PUMPKINS!!  I really like the smell, taste and texture of the ripe pumpkins during this season.

I love this time of year when the leaves change into beautiful colours, and fruits and vegetables are ready to be picked and eaten; and it’s always fun to have a hot cup of apple cider after a nice outdoor hike or walk!  Another special reason that I love Fall is that many of my dearest family members and friends are born during this season, so it’s one joyful celebration after another.  Plus, Thanksgiving is one of my most favourite celebrations as it’s a time to gather with our loved ones and be thankful for all the wonderful things we have in our lives. 🙂

In honour of my favourite season and a few special friends, who have been with me through thick and thin, I made the following cake for their joint birthday party.

This scrumptious cake is gluten-free, dairy-free and is naturally sweet!

After a bite, one of my friends said that it reminds her of pumpkin pie.  If you’re looking for something different this year, I think this cake is the perfect replacement for the pumpkin pie at your Thanksgiving meal! 🙂

A cake perfect for any Autumn occasion or indulgence!

A cake perfect for any Autumn occasion or indulgence!

Makes: 1 cake

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-To make it nut-free, you can skip the walnuts as topping.

-If you like, you can eat cake without icing, and that means you can eat it fresh and warm immediately! 🙂

-It’s best to refrigerate leftovers and consume within 3 days for best taste and texture.

 

For Cake

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients

2 cups Gluten-Free Oat Flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oat Flour)

2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (you can also make your own, see: http://thehealthyeatingsite.com/make-your-own-gluten-free-baking-powder)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Wet Ingredients

1/2 cup honey

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin (I used canned pumpkin; or you can make your own fresh pumpkin purée, see: http://www.canadianliving.com/food/cooking_school/how_to_make_pumpkin_puree_from_fresh_pumpkins.php)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 large egg, whisked

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 cup dark chocolate chunks

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Spray a round cake pan or Bundt pan.
  3. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  6. Slowly add chocolate chunks into batter.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared cake/Bundt pan.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost crumb free.

 

For Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients:

1 cup vegan cream cheese, softened (I used Daiya’s Plain Cream Cheese Style Spread)

4 tablespoons vegan buttery spread, softened (I used Earth Balance’s Soy Free Buttery Spread)

4 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups organic icing sugar

10 whole walnuts, semi-crushed or coarsely chopped

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix cream cheese, buttery spread, maple syrup, and vanilla into a blender/food processor.
  2. Add in the icing sugar one cup at a time into blender/food processor, until smooth.
  3. When the cake is cool, frost with the icing.
  4. Sprinkle with walnuts.
  5. Refrigerate cake for at least 2 hours before serving.
  6. Enjoy! 🙂

 

*I give credit to the following sites for helping me in creating this delightful festive Fall cake:

~Original Recipe for Cake: http://www.familyfreshcooking.com/2013/09/30/gluten-free-pumpkin-chocolate-chip-cake-recipe/#.UlNf79IQbmc

~Original Recipe for Icing: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.ca/2005/12/maple-frosted-pumpkin-cake.html

 

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I wish you all an enjoyable and relaxing upcoming time with your family and friends! 🙂

 

xoxo, Violet

 

P.S. Love this quote for this season: “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”—Melody Beattie

Healthy Banana, Date & Walnut Loaf

This Banana, Date & Walnut Loaf uses only bananas and dates as natural sweeteners.

This Banana, Date & Walnut Loaf uses only bananas and dates as natural sweeteners.

At the request of the guests of the weekend potluck party I attended, I created this loaf for dessert since I had extremely ripe bananas and I’ve been dying to use the medjool dates I bought a few weeks ago, to create a healthy, naturally sweet (minus artificial sugar) and moist Banana, Date & Walnut Loaf.  Actually, this loaf is inspired by fellow blogger Rhiarn’s recipe (see: http://rhicreations.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/banana-date-walnut-loaf/). I’ve been wanting to try her recipe since she shared it in June, and I finally had time to give it a go! (with some minor substitutions due to lack of some required ingredients)  Thanks so much for the inspiration, Rhiarn! 🙂

 

Makes: 8 slices

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: about 40 minutes

 

Special Notes:

-This is not a gluten-free recipe, since my guests are not gluten-free sensitive.  To make it gluten-free, you can replace it with any type of gluten-free flour.

-The riper the bananas, the sweeter they are.

-The medjool dates have a rich, almost honey or caramel-like taste, so they’re perfect as a natural sweetener.

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ripe and mashed bananas

8 medjool non-pitted chopped dates (you have to take the pit out and chop dates into little pieces; I really like this brand: Natural Delights http://www.naturaldelights.com/about-perfect/; dates are a source of fibre and these ones are 100% fat free!)

1 egg white

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup white flour

1/4 cup rolled oats

1 heaped tablespoon cacao powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons chia seeds

4-6 whole walnuts, semi-crushed

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix bananas, dates, egg white and almond milk into a blender/food processor. (wet ingredients)
  3. Combine wholewheat flour, white flour, rolled oats, cacao powder, baking powder and chia seeds in a large bowl. (dry ingredients)
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  5. Line small-medium loaf tin with baking/parchment paper.
  6. Add mixture and sprinkle with semi-crushed walnuts on top.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm.
  8. Enjoy! 🙂

A Gluten-free, Dairy-free & Sugar-free Surprise!

Gluten-free + Dairy-free + Sugar-free = Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins

Gluten-free + Dairy-free + Sugar-free = Banana Chocolate Chip Oat Muffins

About 6 months ago, I was chatting with my good friend Naomi, who also started on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet around the same time as me.  However, she went further by totally cutting out refined sugar.  I have to admit, sometimes I still “cheat” with the sugar-free part, such as eating a Kit Kat bar the other day during break at work.  I tell myself a little refined sugar indulgence is ok once in a while, and compensate it with exercise.  It’s all about balancing! 🙂  Anyways, Naomi went on this eating lifestyle change at the recommendation of her naturopathic doctor for health reasons.  I truly admire her self-control on eating gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free daily!

When I saw her for her birthday a few days ago, she looked absolutely stunning, glowing with health.  To begin with, she has always been beautiful; she looks like a classy, younger version of Ashley Judd with short dark hair.  Nonetheless, the demands of her hectic career affected her physical appearance and energy level in the past few years.  As a result, she gained some weight and had unhealthy pallor of skin.  Now that she has been on her gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free diet for about 6 months, I can really see the difference it has made on her physical appearance.  Her skin is more radiant, her eyes are brighter, and she has slimmed down.  She confides in me that her energy level is much better and she believes it’s all due to changing her eating habits.  As well, her increased energy level allows her to focus on balancing between work and family.  I’m absolutely thrilled for Naomi and through her, see how healthy eating and balanced living work hand in hand towards happiness!

Naomi inspired me to create the following gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free muffins.  A few years ago, Naomi decided to stop buying gifts for family and friends. Instead, she would hand make gifts for them.  I followed suit and surprised her with these yummy treats for her birthday. 🙂

I will now share with you the recipe that I made especially for my dearest friend Naomi.

VIOLET’S VERY HEALTHY BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP OAT MUFFINS

Makes: 18 muffins

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: about 35 minutes

Special Notes: 

In my further exploration of gluten-free flour, I discovered quinoa flour.  It is high in protein, calcium and iron; it also gives a nutty and sweet taste to the baked goods.  It adds lightness to the baked goods, so I decided to combine it with the almond flour (which makes baked goods dense).  The result of the combination was perfect!

-The sugar from the ripe bananas and the lesser amount of sugar in the semisweet/bittersweet chocolate chips compared to other chocolate types, make the muffins sweet in a natural way!

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour/meal

2 cups quinoa flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats (wheat-free & dairy-free)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 ripe and mashed bananas

3 eggs

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line muffin pans with large baking cups.
  2. Combine almond flour, quinoa flour, rolled oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
  3. Combine bananas, eggs, almond milk and chocolate chips in another bowl.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
  5. Fill each baking cup evenly with the batter.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  7. Let the muffins cool completely.
  8.  Bon appétit!

*I asked Naomi to write a mini review on the muffins after she consumed all of them, and here it is:

“I’ve tried many Gluten-free Sugar-free muffins/recipes before and they all seem to end up with a very dense, heavy texture.  But not these muffins!  They are light and fluffy, with great taste.  They have a natural sweetness from the bananas.  Delicious for a healthy breakfast, snack or even dessert!”

Exploring Gluten-Free Baking…

On my last visit to my naturopathic doctor, as we continued to discuss and explore a variety of ways for me to maintain my healthy eating, she kindly shared with me her Berry Almond Flour Muffins recipe.  At her recommendation, I am on my way in cutting out gluten in my daily diet, since we discovered gluten was another reason I often felt bloated.  I used to have toast with milk (I’ve also decreased my dairy intake now) almost every morning for my breakfast, but now I am learning to find appetizing substitutes for my first meal in the morning.  Of course, balance is the key in life, as well as in eating, so I admit that on special occasions such as at my friend’s wedding a few weeks ago, I had some gluten and dairy food.  I figure that eating gluten once in a while is ok, at least for me. 🙂

I am now experimenting with gluten-free alternatives in my baking and eating.  It’s an area that I’m unfamiliar with, but excited to learn more!

As a chocoholic, I had to add a bit of chocolate into my naturopathic doctor’s recipe, so below you will find my version, with some minor changes.  Have fun baking it!

VIOLET’S RASPBERRY & CHOCOLATE CHIP ALMOND FLOUR MUFFINS

Raspberry & Chocolate Chip Almond Flour Muffins Photo

Makes: 18 muffins

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: about 45 minutes

Special Notes: I decided to replace the blueberries/cranberries with raspberries, because I find the tartness of the raspberries goes very well with chocolate.  Plus, there are many health benefits in eating raspberries. (see: http://www.livestrong.com/article/419257-benefits-of-raspberries/)  I find the Almond flour makes the muffins very moist, heavy and filling.  Therefore, having one of these muffins for breakfast is a good way to start off the day on a healthy and sweet note! 🙂

Ingredients:

3 cups almond flour/meal

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups raspberries

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup manuka honey

3 eggs

1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line muffin pans with large baking cups.
  2. Combine almond flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
  3. Combine raspberries, vanilla, manuka honey and eggs in another bowl.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
  5. Fill each baking cup evenly with the batter.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
  7. Let the muffins cool completely.
  8.  Bon appétit!

Do you know of another gluten-free flour that is great for baking?  Please let me know and if possible, share a recipe with it. 🙂

Thanks & Love, Violet