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Friday, November 18, 2011

Oh It's Chocolate!

Chocolate! I did it! 

Aww here, I adapted a gluten free recipe and created my own lower carb, no refined sugar or flour chocolate cupcake AND piping icing!  They were so choclatey and not too sweet, a wonderful treat for chocolate lovers  who are trying to eat healthier.

No refined flour or sugar chocolate cupcakes: 
I use organic products whenever available
(recipe adapted from Elana's Pantry)
1/4 c coconut flour
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t sea salt
1/4 t baking soda
4 large eggs
1/4 C + 1 tsp grapeseed oil
1/2 C  agave nectar
1 t pure vanilla extract
(you can throw in a handful of semi sweet chocolate chips or nuts if you like)

 beat eggs and syrup in mixing bowl, combine dry and add slowly to mixture.  Bake 350 for about 15 min depending on size of muffin wrappers, I chose small for 12 min.   For larger, try 15-18 min.

The coconut flour is not refined, is high in fiber and protein and has a low glycemic index.  It has a wonderful consistency in baking and creates a moist smooth cupcake.  The organic unsweetened cocoa powder is packed full of antioxidants and also is low in fat and carbs.  You can throw in some nuts for some added heart healthy oils and protein!  

Today I used the organic brown rice syrup, but agave would  also work well in this recipe
and has a lower glycemic index than the rice syrup. The agave actually works better in my kid taste test.  I baked a pumpkin pie yesterday with it,
 so I chose to mix it up today with the rice syrup.  

No refined sugar Chocolate Piping Frosting
(I adapted from Organic Valley Dry Milk recipe)

1/2 C Organic non fat Dry Milk (sifted)
1/2 C organic unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)
1 stick organic butter or equivalent Coconut oil (coconut oil tasted better to me!)
1/4 C agave nectar
1 t vanilla extract
1 t water

Cream room temperature butter in mixing bowl, add  agave syrup,  combine until smooth and creamy. Sift dry milk and cocoa together, slowly add half to mix  as you continue to beat.  Add extract and water.  Add last half of dry mix and beat until smooth.  

(I have also made this recipe with dry soy milk as a substitute, honey or pure maple syrup instead of the brown rice syrup and also have used coconut oil instead of butter. The honey and maple syrup go well with a spice cupcake like pumpkin or apple.   If you use coconut oil, you will need to chill frosting in fridge for 15 min before piping to stiffen frosting.)

See new VEGAN "buttercream" frosting recipe HERE

Here I demonstrated spreading the frosting for a different look.  If you want to add an amazing punch of flavor to your cupcake,  these flavored sugar sprinkles are packed with amazing flavor and really only add a negligible amount of refined sugar for the amazing flavor it packs.  This series I found at a cooking specialty store had mocha, praline, cappuccino and butter rum along with the raspberry shown.  One little shake of this on top of the frosting gives the illusion of a real "sweet frosting"! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall Flavors in Quinoa


Yes this ancient grain boasts being a complete protein, full of fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron and it's gluten free.  It is low fat, tasty and so easy to make!  I get this organic version at Costco.  

Here I made 1 cup of dry quinoa with 1 1/2 cup organic vegetable broth and 1 T of grapeseed oil (olive oil would work too), I threw in a cinnamon stick and a little ginger.  After the liquid was absorbed, I removed the cinnamon stick and added a handful of slivered almonds and fruit sweetened organic dried cranberries.    It made a delicious breakfast with the flavors of fall! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It all starts here.....

Eat Your Veggies!  The Easy Way.

In my quest to nurture a healthy body, I have been eating more organic vegetables and nutrient rich foods to heal, restore and feed my body.  I have realized this organic 
Vegetable Broth by Pacific Natural Foods has become a staple in my cooking.  Basically I use it to replace water in almost all of my savory cooking.  Once a week I make a pot of organic veggie soup by starting with a box of this broth,  adding a can of organic tomato paste and whatever veggies I have on hand!  I try to be sure to include GREENS like kale or spinach or a box of mixed organic greens.  This is also a wonderful way to include  the fiber and cancer fighting attributes of cabbage into your diet.  I like to add a dab of hot chili paste for a kick boost on metabolism and immunity.  Adding spices that help with metabolism like turmeric is a smart idea too.   Consider making a healthy soup pot full of good stuff for your body!  Be creative,   It's so easy.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lo Carb Bread

Gluten Free Low Carb Bread

This is another almond flour recipe I am so excited about, adapted from Elana Amsterdam's Gluten Free cookbook.  Really it adds up to about 3 carb per slice and is filled with protein!  I tried it this morning and it was moist and yummy, and I am excited about varying the recipe with olives and rosemary for a savory bread, or with nuts and fruit and spices for a quick bread style.  

3/4 c creamy almond butter room temp
4 lrg eggs
1/4 c blanched almond flour
1/4 c arrowroot flour
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t baking soda
1T ground flax seed
mix wet in mixing bowl, combine dry, add a bit at time until mix is smooth, bake 350 for 40 min in a small 3x7 in  sprayed loaf pan, let cool before removing

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Halloween 2011

Easy Breezy  HEALTHY Halloween

This year my kids had a chance to go to Disney World right before Halloween, since they were scheduled to come home late the night before and had school the next day, I decided to keep Halloween celebrations traditional but without all the normal fanfare our family likes to put out.  I made some flavorful healthy orange walnut organic cupcakes with no refined sugars and tried a new frosting made with organic dry milk and agave nectar!  It was delicious.  As you will see below,  I made a big veggie tray to stuff them with some healthy food before the candy came!

Walnut Orange Cupcakes
1 C well chopped walnuts
1 C organic whole wheat flour
2 T ground flax
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t sea salt
2 T grated orange zest
3/4 C juice from an orange
1/2 C grapeseed oil
1/2 C organic raw agave nectar
2 large organic eggs

Combine all wet ingredients in mixer bowl,  mix dry ingredients together and add to wet, mix until 
combined.  Bake in cupcake liners at 350 for 20 min for average size, 10-12 for mini liners.
Frosting was "Organic Valley" healthy frosting with a few drops natural food coloring and half orange and half the vanilla extract .  See HERE

Fun healthy party foods with color and style don't have to be all sugar!!!

I made these luminaries from glass vases, covered in tracing paper with dollar store cutouts glued on.
Below you can see how they looked once  lit up.

Death by candy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

French Poodles in Paris

Oh I know Halloween is almost here, and my  cookie designs for this year are sitting out just waiting for their little pictures to be taken, but I am a little behind schedule this year!  

Ooh La La

Today is my daughter's 12th birthday and we had a Poodles In Paris Party for her.....yummy homemade healthy organic orange and walnut cupcakes and an organic almond shortbread cookie with a thin layer of fondant and some of the new Wilton sugar sheets to match our theme!  Enjoy some fun pictures from a fun party!  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pumpkin Candy Cups

Pumpkin Candy Cups---Like a Reese's Cup But Pumpkiny!

I got this great recipe and idea from a Blog I found and you can find it here at
It  is a wonderful fall inspired candy.  I dressed mine up a bit for the holiday compared to the original suggestions by using orange candy melts that lined tiny paper candy wrappers (like mini cupcake wrappers) and then removed once the candy is set....the filling is pumpkin yummy. You then add another layer of melted white chocolate or candy melts on top to seal in the soft middle.  You can see I added a pumpkin design with sprinkles and pretzels
and a tiny fondant leaf.  

The base of the  set candy after removing wrappers

..and they made it to my Thanksgiving tray of treats last year.  They really were a huge hit with the guests and the kids.  Of course, they aren't following suit to my new and improved eating lifestyle, but you know there are those exceptions!  Check out Megan's blog above and see her recipe and tutorial!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I found my answers!

My New Favorite Cookbooks!

So, here lately, I have been trying to reduce refined sugars and flours into my baking and still create fun and festive treats for gatherings and celebrations.  Well, I happened to stumble across
Elana Amsterdam's blog called Elana's Pantry and immediately ordered  two of her books off of Aamazon!   There are amazing recipes with whole and natural foods, and even low sugar frostings!!  I have only yet begun to experiment with this little book of gold, but visit her blog and just take a peek and be open to TRY something new!  

Friday, September 30, 2011

Healthier Cupcake Home run!

Thumbs Up Vanilla Cupcakes
.....No refined flour or granulated sugar

Well this attempt at making a healthier cupcake was a hit with my "tasters"!  The kids said things like, "they taste like a Krispy Kreme Donut"! and "two thousand thumbs up mom!".  This was a modified recipe from another of Alicia Silverstone's Vegan recipes in her Kind Diet cookbook.  Mine aren't Vegan once the frosting hit the top, but that isn't my objective.  I really just want to limit chemicals, GMO ingredients, refined sugars and increase fiber and protein in my baking.  I spoke of "layers" to these things in my last post, and really this isn't the top tier of what can be done....but again, I am considering several recipes for specific audiences and compromises.  

Below are what they looked like out of the oven.....

Here is my modified version of the recipe:

Healthier Vanilla Cupcakes      350  15 min for the tiny cuppies,  adjust for larger ones

2/3 C organic almond milk
1 t organic apple cider vinegar
(these two ingredients are combined first off and allowed to set for a few minutes until the mixture bubbles a little......don't ask me why, that was in the initial recipe and I figured it was to create a kind of buttermilk affect...I like the idea of the apple cider vinegar in it anyway, so I kept it)
1/2 c organic agave nectar 
1/3 c grape seed oil (you certainly could substitute a safflower or other)
2 t pure vanilla extract
1- 1/3  cup organic, non bleached white-wheat flour 
1 t baking powder 
1/2 t baking SODA (non aluminum added)
pinch of fine sea salt

mix the milk and the vinegar in the bowl first, allow to set while you gather other ingredients.  Add all the wet to the mix, begin to mix..combine all your dry ingredients and add until mixed.  Pour into cupcakes liners and bake. 

My frosting was a mix of organic low fat cream cheese, some organic confectioner's sugar and 3 T of organic skim powdered milk to increase the protein/sugar ratio even higher.  The little pumpkins were make with my  rollable cream cheese frosting with a green sprinkle as the stem.  Which by the way I picked out of an assorted bottle of sprinkles! haha  My goal is to try and lose the confectioner's sugar in making frosting and I have a few ideas on the horizon.....those are coming soon. 

Here's how the kids got to take them to school in their lunches today!

Well,  I need to get prepared for a few new parties I have planned here on the horizon....I have had back surgery this month and am still on orders to "take it easy" so I am gonna have to do things on a much smaller scale than normal,  but still plan on pouring on some creativity, so visit again for whatever inspiration I can come up with next!  Thanks for viewing.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First attempt!

Let's at least try! 

So I am trying to come up with ways to make healthier choices in my life and for my kids.  In this effort, I have become determined to try and explore some recipes avoiding bleached out refined flours and sugars as much as possible and to try and keep chemicals, preservatives and genetically modified foods out of the mix.  I even purchased some natural food color made from vegetables. 

I have poured over several healthy style cookbooks and made myself a list of cookie, cupcake and frosting recipes to work with,  make substitutions for and see what I can come up with.  Basically, what I realized is, there are gonna be "layers" to how much compromise I  may need to take for a specific look, event or even considering a specific audience.  There are some super great, totally healthy drop cookie recipes full of fiber and protein and  yummy whole grain spice cupcakes that are on the top of the charts packed with whole grains and organic natural sweeteners, but for the "decorated sugar cookie" thing I am famous for out here in these parts.....I am really still
 just working on it!  

These cutie little pumpkins are my first attempt at avoiding refined sugars and flours in the cookie recipe.  Of course any rollable frosting you can decorate with is where the compromise has to come in.  Store bought fondant is basically high fructose corn syrup---hands down.  But of course it gives us the prettiest and easiest results.  There are gonna be times I gotta cave and use it!  Here for this experimental batch though, I chose my rollable cream cheese frosting with  organic low fat cream cheese and organic confectioner's sugar.  (fyi the low fat didn't work as well as the regular)

The verdict on the cookie recipe.....ahh didn't get the highest of thumbs up from my "testers".   I had chosen to use some garbanzo bean flour to increase the protein in the cookie, and really it left an after that goes bye bye for the "sugar cookie" experiment.  But, I did use some other  organic whole grain flours and organic brown rice syrup, and I think there may be a way I can keep those in the next trial batch.  Instead of butter, I chose an organic coconut oil.  And even though coconut oil is a saturated fat, it isn't getting the bad results as animal saturated fats on how our body processes it.  These of course are just my findings in my readings and research.  I will post the recipe below that I tried out just for you to see what I did use.  It is a modified version of a vegan recipe I found in Alicia Silverstone's book

Rollable SHORTBREAD Cookies   350  10 min
(Alicia Silverstone’s  recipe modified)
1 c pastry flour, I used Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour with garbanzo bean flour
1 c  organic, non bromated, non bleached white wheat flour
1 c organic  brown rice flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 c "Olivio" extra virgin Coconut Spread
2/3 c organic brown rice syrup
2 t pure vanilla
1 t fine sea salt
put wet ingredients in mixer, combine and add in dry, make dough into ball, chill, roll, cut and bake. 

In the end, the garbanzo bean flour in the gluten free all purpose flour held an after taste so I wouldn't use that again in a "sugar cookie",  but would still consider it for some other things that have many more layers of spices and flavors.   I also would substitute something else for the coconut oil, since that too held a strong flavor presence.  I am going to try the Earth Balance organic spread next.

SO attempt number ONE!  They weren't "horrible" and I really enjoyed them BEFORE I added the frosting,  just because I personally didn't want  to eat the sugar in the frosting.  SO I bake on.......

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Take It Outside!

Let's Go Outside!
During the height of my party planning business,  RSVP's,  I was commissioned to plan a birthday celebration at the host's house.  Since their yard was so spacious and scenic, I brought our indoor outdoor and  I set up a lovely atmosphere that had a sense of nature and the space around it, but still had enough intimacy that family and friends could mingle and enjoy the time together.  Our host insisted on the understated without a lot of fanfare so I chose some elements found in nature like rocks, greenery, water and lanterns placed about that really gave off a nice touch of glow as it darkened outside.  

These umbrellas were a Costco find and stood alone on beautiful natural (and very heavy!)  marble stands.  I placed them in between table areas to tie the space together and allow the full use of the top of the tables.
This simple gazebo was an inexpensive find at Big Lots for under $50.  It has proven itself for many a gathering time and time again.  You may have seen it's skeleton take shape at my indoor wine party draped with white sheers.  I have even used the poles draped with sheers and florals for a romantic bench seating area alongside the dance floor at an outdoor wedding.  I have also hung sheers as side panels to create an intimate outdoor lunch space with the tables underneath.  Some "twisty ties" and a little creativity can really get you far! 

Inside the tent I hung this very versatile candelabra with tiny glass lanterns and candles.  I set the ring with some natural greenery to play off of the outdoor theme.  I have put grapes in this at my  indoor wine party,  pumpkins in this......oh so many things.  It can set as a table centerpiece if the the chain is removed and then candles placed on the perimeter of the circle.  I love to reinvent and reuse the things I already have!
These glass vases are my most used most versatile element of event styling!  I purchased a case from the dollar store and then some varying sizes from Big Lots that matched the design well.  You will see them  reappear in almost all of my parties.  I have covered them in matching wrapping paper as a centerpiece, have filled with with food coloring and water to add punch of color to a table,  and used them as floral vases, wrapped ribbon around them and even submerged a stack of golf balls in them for the Father's Day tablescape!