Friday, December 30, 2011


Every time I come up with a recipe or see one I love, my first question these days is "Can my daughter eat it?". If not, the challenge [and fun] begins. One of my new found pet-peeves is eating something in front of her that she can't have. Of course, there will always be times this happens but I work really hard to ensure that 98% of the time we are enjoying the same foods [or at least a version of the same foods]. Sometimes this means separating a portion out prior to adding certain ingredients, sometimes it demands sacrificing certain foods, but most of the time all it requires is a bit of imagination and a small amount of ingredient know-how with the willingness to try foods a few times until they are just right.

Today I was itching for some no-bake cookies. Long ago I gave up the refined-sugar packed, instant oatmeal masquerade that lurks on the bakery shelves. Today I took a detour around all other sugars [sucanat, coconut palm, and raw cane sugars, honey, and maple syrup] and instead decided to work with dates, a naturally sweet fruit.

Dates are sweet and warming. They harmonize organs and have eliminating properties [a good aid in treating constipation]. If you have a small child with a sore throat, date syrup or paste can be used in place of honey. Of course, the dried dates most of us have access to have lost some of their nutrients but even so, dried dates still are an excellent source of B vitamins, copper, iron, potassium, and magnesium.

I also substituted carob for cocoa powder as I am more interested in going to sleep than chasing a caffeine-laced toddler around in the wee-hours of the morning. Carob is also naturally high in iron, a nutrient that many children are deficient in.

Please understand that if you are looking for the dry, crumbly, super sweet version - this is not the recipe for you. Instead, these have a deep richness and subtle sweet that will easily satisfy those sugar cravings without the sharp blood sugar spike and inevitable energy crash.

But the best part? My daughter gets to enjoy the spoon.


1 cup of dates, firmly packed
enough boiling water to fill to 1 1/2 cups

Place dates in a 2 cup glass measuring jar. Cover with boiling water, enough to fill to 1 1/2 c. line. Let stand for 10 minutes.

4 1/2 c. of old-fashion oats [not instant]
1/2 c. regular coconut milk
1/2 c. date soaking water

Once the dates have soaked for 10 minutes, combine oats, 1/2 c. of the date soaking water, and 1/2 c. of coconut milk in a glass mixing bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor combine:

3/4 c. sunflower seed butter [or nut / seed butter of choice, although I would advise not using peanut butter]
1/4 c. coconut oil
the dates and remaining soaking water
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 c. carob powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract or 1/2 scraped vanilla bean

Blend until very smooth. Pour into a medium size stainless steel saucepan and warm over low heat. Once the mixture is just warm, add in oatmeal mixture. Stir until all of the oats are incorporated. Let the mixture sit in the pot for about 10 minutes to allow the oatmeal to soften a bit more and soak up the carob sauce.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Scoop out cookie batter and form into balls on the cookie sheet.

Place in the freezer for 20 - 30 minutes [more if necessary] until firm. Store in the freezer or refrigerator.

*To make these raw, soak the dates and oats over night and eliminate the cooking step.

This makes appx. 20 medium sized cookies. 

Friday, December 16, 2011


Whenever I receive bad [sometimes devastating] news I tend to head to the kitchen to bake and pray my sadness away. Today is no exception, and although I won't delve into details, I will say that this news deserves the best of both my prayers and pastry efforts.

As you head into this joyous and busy Christmas season, remember to let anyone and everyone around you know they are loved. Smile, spread cheer, and most of all be present in the lives of those you care for most. Don't get too caught up in the frenzy of gifts and food and planning and parties and deadlines and final exams and travel. Remember to take time to breathe in and feel deeply these moments that seem to pass by so quickly and sometimes unnoticed.

Grace, Peace, and Merry Christmas.


1 packet of instant or rapid-rise yeast
2/3 c. regular coconut milk [or other non-dairy milk]

1/2 c. arrowroot starch / powder
1 c. tapioca flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. Real Salt sea salt

2 tbsp. organic unrefined coconut oil, solid
1/4 c. sucanat or coconut palm sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract


1 c. sucanat
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 - 1/3 c. lightly ground nuts of choice [walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts work really well]


1 [14-ounce] can of cold coconut milk
2 tbsp. organic unrefined coconut oil
1/8 c. creamed honey [find the creamed version is very important here! try this brand]
1 vanilla bean, scraped
pinch of Real Salt sea salt
3 - 4 oz. of dairy-free cream cheese [optional, I prefer without]
1/4 c. ghee or dairy-free butter spread [optional, I prefer without]

First grease a square or pie baking dish with Spectrum Organics Vegetable Shortening. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, gently warm milk to a bit more than room temperature [90 - 100 degrees] but not to boil. Milk should be warm to touch but not hot. Pour into a small glass bowl, stir in yeast and cover bowl with a piece of plastic wrap. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients [starch, flour, baking soda and powder, gum, and salt]. Mix well and set aside.

In mixing or blending bowl, combine coconut oil and sucanat. Beat until smooth [you may have to scrape the side of the bowl a few times]. Add yeast / milk mixture [the yeast should have created a froth and risen a bit in the bowl], egg, and vanilla extract. Beat well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat until well mixed. The batter should be sticky and thick.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Sprinkle with a small amount of sucanat. Place the batter on the plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Begin to spread the batter out with your hands. Using a rolling pin, continue to roll out the batter making sure to keep the top plastic wrap in place [the batter is too sticky to roll without it - using plastic wrap in lieu of wax or parchment paper is very important as the batter will stick to both the papers]. Once the batter is flattened to 1/2-inch thick, remove the top piece of plastic wrap.

In a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients. Gently sprinkle on top of dough until entire surface is covered. Using the cut edge of the plastic wrap, slowly begin to roll the dough. By pulling up and over on the wrap, the dough should begin to roll onto itself. Continue until a large "log" is formed. Cut the "log" into 8 or 9 1-inch thick pieces. Place each piece into the prepared baking dish. Continue until all pieces have been cut and placed into dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for 25 - 30 minutes or until tops have become nicely browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

In the meantime you can work on the frosting. Gently open can of coconut milk without shaking [if you shake it as lightly as possible and hear liquid choose another can until you don't hear liquid]. Scrape the solid white portion of the coconut milk out of the can leaving the semi-translucent liquid behind. Combine the separated coconut milk, creamed honey, vanilla bean, sea salt and coconut oil [and optional ingredients] in a mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment[s] to your mixer, begin to blend starting on a low speed and working up to the highest speed setting. Mix for 2 - 3 minutes or until mixture becomes light and fluffy. Pour into glass storage container and refrigerate until mixture has become thick.

Once the cinnamon rolls have cooled a bit, spread the thickened frosting over the rolls, top with lightly roasted nuts [optional, and enjoy!

Makes 8 - 9 rolls.

The frosting was inspired by My New Roots.


A friend of mine gave me a simplified version of this recipe as a gift and I couldn't get enough! If you plan on traveling in the upcoming couple of weeks this is a must-pack car or airplane snack to keep you from succumbing to those vending monsters and cheap food [not so] thrills. The protein and subtle sweet will combat the sugar cravings that somehow mercilessly start the minute you buckle in and a handful will fill any and all rumbling tummies.

May your holiday travels be filled with ease and peace. May families and friends be waiting to welcome you with warm hugs and crackling fires. May you let the joy of this season permeate your soul and radiate out into the world. And may you take a moment [or a lot of moments] to remember the reason we are so blessed by our Christmas celebrations.


2 c. pumpkin [pepita] seeds
1 c. hazelnuts or almonds, very slightly chopped
3/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/3 c. sesame seeds
1/4 c. flaxseeds
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. Real Salt sea salt
1/2 c. maple syrup

1 c. dried cherries or cranberries

In a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl combine all of the dry ingredients [except for the dried fruit]. Stir well. Add the maple syrup and mix until well coated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the mixture out on the baking sheet so that it is evenly covered with no holes or gaps.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until just lightly golden brown [watch carefully if you go over 20 minutes]. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Gently break pieces off or crumble, add the dried fruit, and store in a tightly sealed glass jar. If you plan to store the mix for more than 2 to 3 days, keep it in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity prior to traveling.

Monday, December 12, 2011


As the largest birthday celebration of all time inches a bit closer [who else gets a celebration that takes a month, or longer, to prepare?], my husband and I have begun to think about what traditions we would like to begin as a family. As a kid I couldn't wait until it was "okay" [ie. after 6am] to come bounding out of my room in my red footy pajamas [you know the ones] and dive into the stocking that hung packed on the stairwell railing. Some parents [I mean, Santa of course!] wait until the night prior to Christmas morning to fill their children's stockings but for some reason unbeknownst to my brother and I, my parents decided to fill ours all throughout December. The anticipation nearly killed us. I have to admit plotting with my brother on how to open the wrapping just enough to peak inside and then return it to its proper space, perfectly as it was.

Either way, Christmas morning brought an immense amount of excitement for us. We would sit beneath our stocking with uncontainable glee waiting until all were present. Once the tired was wiped from my parents eyes [a cup of coffee and crackling fire later] we would each open a present, in order of age, until all were unwrapped. My mom would then cook an amazing breakfast - one fit for the day. My dad would follow by reading the story of Christmas [one we couldn't hear enough]. After our bellies were stuffed to the brim, we headed [or maybe rolled] to the tree allowing it to reveal what it held beneath it's branches. The perfect morning. Years later that feeling of bliss still burns deep in my heart and I yearn for my daughter to feel the same way I did [and still do] on Christmas morning.

Food has always been a central part of most, if not all, celebrations. Many of life's most intimate moments and it's precious memories happen in the kitchen. Magic happens there. Miracles happen there. Life happens there. As you prepare and plan for your holiday feasts, take a moment and just be in the kitchen. Stop and take in all of it's smells and sounds. Travel through time and count all of the blessings that have happened, and have yet to happen, in that small space. Then go about the frenzy of feasting with a new found sense of gratefulness for all of this hustle and bustle. Acknowledge that you are in the process of making a memory.

My prayer is that, no matter what traditions my husband and I decide to begin, my daughter will look back and know that heaven still meets earth in wondrous and mysterious ways. That she feels the enchantment of Christmas morning in her soul, a feeling that goes far beyond gifts and meals and stories. This enchantment is eternal and that alone is enough to celebrate with gifts and feasting, traditions and tales.

This recipe has been a wonderful addition to my pre-Christmas mornings as I plan and prepare and bake and enjoy the moments my daughter and I share sitting on the floor eating together [we love many of our meals picnic style]. It's nourishing, warming and grounding. When it's winter-white outside I no longer crave the coolness of a smoothie yet I still crave it's nutrients. This breakfast pudding is so easy to assemble and is a more than adequate stand-in for it's icy cousin. Play with it, transform it, make it your own. Use what you have in the house and in your freezer and enjoy.


1/2 c. regular coconut milk [you can use a different non-dairy milk but this, in my opinion, tastes the best]
1 c. pure water
1 c. blueberries, frozen*
1/2c. raspberries, frozen*
1 - 2 tbsp. maple syrup [or to taste]
2 tbsp. coconut oil

2 tbsp. psyllium husk / seed
1 tbsp. chia seed
1/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. walnuts
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ginseng [optional]
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped [optional]

In a medium saucepan and over low heat, gently warm milk, water, berries, maple syrup, and oil until heated through but not hot.

Place all of the remaining ingredients in a blender. Pour in coconut milk mixture and blend on medium-high until very smooth. Pour into serving dishes and allow to stand 3 - 5 minutes [mixture should thicken to pudding-like consistency]. Top with berries [optional] and serve warm.

*I recommend frozen here because blueberries are no longer in season where I live. Frozen berries retain much more of their nutritional value whereas fresh berries that have traveled a great distance loose a lot in the process. This is the same for raspberries.

Monday, December 5, 2011


The other day my husband asked me if I could make him something. Hold everything. The man I married five years ago very rarely asks me to make him something and never requests that I mess with one of the holy-grail foods of his childhood. He is the go-with-the-flow, try anything type [even if under duress] that has been subjected to quite a few culinary experiments and has taken everything in stride. He is the subject group behind many of these posts and it is he that makes or breaks what shows up here. But this time he asked! A request?! Call out the pots, sharpen the knives, shine the silver. I immediately put all meal plans on hold and locked myself in the kitchen [figuratively of course] and cooked and tasted and adjusted and cooked some more.

Obviously, in looking at the title of the post, you have figured out what he asked for. The 10-year old in him came up for a visit and demanded nostalgia in the form of this typically kill-you-it's-so-high-in-sodium, gluten packed, nutrient deficient soup. But, knowing his wife, he presented it in the form of a challenge. The goal? To make him a soup reminiscent of Top Ramen's Creamy Chicken Flavor Soup without the heart-stopping, blood-pressure exasperating nutrient content. You mean you want me to make a healthy version of your favorite childhood soup? Either I'm dead and in heaven or the lifestyle changes that we have made over the years are finally immersing themselves in the one person I respect, love, and admire above all others.

And then? We did yoga together.

I must be dead.

Thankfully I'm not and am able to share this with you. It has been husband approved with two thumbs up from the 10-year old inside.


1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions
4 - 6 carrots
4 - 6 cloves of garlic

1/4 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour [1/8 c. brown rice or millet flour + 1/8 c. tapioca flour]
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. Real Salt sea salt
dash of celery seed

4 c. organic, gluten-free chicken or vegetable broth
4 c. water
1/2 piece of kombu [optional, used to enhance the flavor and nutrients of this soup]

1/2 c. non-dairy milk [I like almond, hemp, walnut, or rice milk here]
1/2 package [about 4 ounces] of very thin Asian rice noodles [you can try this or this brand]

In a food processor combine onions, carrots, and garlic and mince well. The pieces should be very small. Heat oil in a soup pot. Add minced vegetables and saute, mixing occasionally, until just soft [7 - 10 minutes]. Add flour, poultry seasoning, turmeric, sea salt, and celery seed and stir constantly for about 30 seconds, coating the vegetables well.

Pour in the broth and water. Add kombu if you are using it. Bring to boil and then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, pour in non-dairy milk and noodles. Let simmer an additional 10 minutes or until noodles are soft.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Makes 4 - 6 servings, appx. $1.80 per bowl.


I am sure you are deep in Christmas decorations, lights, ornaments, shopping and wrapping right now [and if you aren't, will be soon]. As you set up your tree, decorate your house and make gift lists, take a moment to think about how you can make this Christmas a more sustainable, earth-friendly one. For example, purchase ornaments from antique or thrift stores [I found the one pictured above for my daughter for $0.25!]. The hunt is so much fun and, in my opinion, more meaningful.

When your Christmas lights need replacing, purchase warm LED lights. They are similar in look and price but last a lot longer and cost a lot less in energy. Try choosing local, organic foods that are in season for your holiday meals, forego the cheap dollar store stocking stuffers and select more useful things to fill those socks. Give services and experiences or shop at stores that support the environment [like The Tree Hugger Store in Holland and Grand Rapids] and Fair Trade [like The Bridge in Holland or Global Infusion in Grand Rapids]. Give homemade and / or edible gifts.

There are so many ways to cut down on our holiday footprints. Just a few steps can make a huge difference!