To all my fellow chocolate lovers out there, I can't wait to share these delicious little treats with you!
I created these healthy versions of the Reese peanut butter cups for a dessert night demonstration I recently did. They were such a hit that I felt they needed to be shared with more people!
My chocolate nut butter cups are a very simple make ahead holiday dessert that you can pop into the freezer and pull out when you have friends over for coffee, place on your holiday cookie platter or save for your own sanity snacking when the Christmas to do list becomes overwhelming.
If you don't normally use cacao butter you might be wondering what it is and where to find it. Cacao butter is what is typically used in vegan raw chocolate making to give it that creamy taste and texture. Cacao butter is the creamy fat that is extracted from the beans of the cacao tree. Also known as cocoa butter, it can be used in cooking and baking but also as a beauty product (moisturizer, lip balm, stretch mark cream, edible massage, etc.). It is rich in healthy fats and vitamin E, which is an important vitamin for the functioning of the nervous system.
Cacao butter can be hard to find at your regular grocery store. In my community I have found it at both Nature's Fare and Bulk Barn. You want to make sure you purchase it organically as cacao is a heavily sprayed food.
Chocolate Nut Butter Cups
Vegan, Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free
Makes approx. 24 mini cups
-3/4 cup coconut oil
-4.5 Tbsp cacao butter
-1 & 1/8 cup organic cocoa powder
-1/2 cup maple syrup
-a heaping 1/4 tsp sea salt (plus more for topping)
-1/2cup nut or seed butter (almond, peanut, sunflower, etc.)
-1Tbsp maple syrup
-sea salt to taste
-mini cupcake liners
1.Make a double boiler (a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water). Melt the coconut oil and cacao butter. Add the maple syrup and whisk to combine. When all mixed, remove from heat. Mix in the cocoa powder and salt. Adjust sweetness/saltiness according to taste.
2.Pour just enough chocolate into each cupcake liner so that there is a thin layer on the bottom. You should use less than half the chocolate, the rest will be used for later. Place in freezer for 15 minutes to set.
3.Make the filling. Mix all the ingredients together. Adjust for taste.
4.Spoon about 1tsp of filling into your hands. Roll it into a ball and flatten with your palm to be just a bit smaller than the size of the cupcake liner.
5.Remove liners from freezer. Place a disc of nut butter in each liner. Drizzle the rest of the chocolate on top to cover all the nut butter discs. Sprinkle salt on top to garnish.
6.Place in freezer for about one hour to set. Once ready, these can be stored in the freezer or in the fridge in a sealed container.
Love and light, xo
I've had quite a few moms asking me lately for suggestions on what to feed their children. It seems like I am not the only one going through a picky eater stage. My daughter, Harlow, used to gobble up everything we gave her but now that she's nearing 3 years old she has opinions on what she likes and doesn't like. One of her new favourite sayings is "no, I don't like that" before she has even given it a try. It has definitely become frustrating.
The good thing though, is my daughter is a snack machine. She basically eats all day long. A friend recently told me that one of her friends doesn't let her children snack as she wants them to eat their meals.
I understand that you want your child to eat what you have prepared them at meal time. I get it. But it is SO important that children have multiple snacks throughout the day. Kids have a fast metabolism so they burn up what they eat quite quickly. They need to be fed frequently to keep their blood sugar levels stable. This helps keep their moods even, their brain focused and functioning and their energy up.
When children reach a certain age it can become a battle to get them to eat what you want. It is really important to remember that you are in control of what they eat at home but you cannot control how much they eat. They are their own beings with their own minds and willpower. We have to trust that if we are providing different healthy snack and meal options throughout the day they will get the nourishment they need. Their bodies are smart and they will crave what nutrients they need. Harlow went through an apple kick for about 6 months eating 2-3 apples a day. I'm sure there was some nutrient her body was missing and her body told her to get it from apples.
You've probably heard this before but you are the role model and you must lead by example. If you are eating a snickers bar you have to be prepared to share it with your child. If you don't want them eating a snickers bar then you have to not have them in the house (or be very sneaky where you hide it!). That is my rule. If I don't want my kid to eat it then I can't eat it. If your child sees you snacking on and enjoying kale chips or a big bowl of fruit then they are more likely to want to eat those too.
A good way to get your child to eat the things you prepare for them is to let them help make it. Harlow LOVES energy balls and part of the reason she loves them is because she gets to spend special time with mommy making them together and eating them in the process.
It is also EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to never use food as punishment or reward. For example, if your child doesn't want to eat their veggies at dinner PLEASE don't tell them they can't have dessert. It makes them think of their vegetables as boring and yucky and their sugar filled dessert as delicious. If you are going to make a dessert, make something that is delicious but also super healthy so when they don't want to eat what you've provided at dinner they will still be eating something healthy and filling for dessert (raw vegan cheesecake anyone?!).
Punishing or rewarding ("eat 3 more bites of broccoli and you can have ice cream") children with food creates an unhealthy relationship with food, giving more value to the reward food (aka the "unhealthy" food). It is an easy strategy in the short run, but in the long run it can increase the risk that a child (or adult later on) will emotionally eat. It also gives them a preference for junky, high fat high sugar foods and decreases their ability to regulate their food intake.
So what ARE some healthy snacks that aren't overly complicated to make? Check out my list below.
-Energy balls are fast and delicious and can be changed to suit your child's preferences. If your child has a nut allergy swap out the nuts for seeds or oats.
-Fruit salads using seasonal fruit.
-Overnight oats and chia puddings are great quick make ahead breakfast or snack ideas. You can easily sneak hemp seeds or chia seeds into them for added protein and minerals.
-Foods with dips! Harlow is more likely to eat something if she can dip it in something yummy. So tzatziki and baked pita chips or organic corn tortilla chips are great. Hummus and veggies sticks or flax crackers (we like Mary's brand). You can experiment with different beans/legumes (chickpeas or lentils or black beans and blend in veggies like roasted peppers or spinach).
-Try roasting things! Roasted chickpeas are DELICIOUS! We also love cutting up zucchini and rolling it in a mixture of parmesan and spices and baking it and then dipping it in hot sauce. You could also do the same with sweet potatoes or carrots.
-Try different cooked veggies with lots of butter or coconut oil (cooked broccoli, carrots, green beans) and I like to put Herbamare on Harlow’s (she LOVES it and makes her want to eat her veggies more).
-For a sweet treat you can also make vegan banana ice cream (frozen bananas blended in a food processor, add some toppings like coconut and nuts).
-Fruit smoothies (see my raspberry dreamsicle smoothie below) are easy and you can throw some greens and plant protein powder in there too if your child is totally opposed to vegetables. Smoothies can also easily become popsicles for hot summer days.
-Apple sandwiches. Cut an apple in half, smear it with peanut butter, add toppings (nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, mini chocolate chips, etc.). Kids love these because they can pick the toppings.
-Vegetable buns (takes a little more time to make these). I like the ones from greenkitchenstories.
-Whole grain tortillas (or use a big lettuce leaf) with hummus or other bean spread, veggies, sprouts, cheese, etc.
Keep offering the same foods too. It takes about 10 tries to change a child's taste buds. So if you are desperate for your child to like hummus, they might just like it the 10th time they eat it. Some kids are really sensitive to the different textures of food (that would be my husband) so trying healthy foods in different ways can get them eating the foods you want. For example if they don't like raw bananas try freezing them and making ice cream out of them, or adding them to smoothies or mashing them up and mixing into overnight soaked oats.
If you are struggling to get your kids to eat healthy or just need more ideas, feel free to send me a message. And mama, you're doing great!
Love and light xo,
The process of lacto-fermentation is common in traditional diets in all indigenous cultures throughout the world. Each culture has its own cultured foods that are passed down from generation to generation. These foods are unique to the people that make them. We live in a world that is full of bacteria and fungi and we live in a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria and could NOT exist without them. We are slowly beginning to realize this. Sandor Katz (The Art of Fermentation) says that it is a “biological imperative.” We evolved with bacteria and they are essential to life.
Originally fermentation provided a unique way to preserve foods for extended periods of time. During fermentation, sugars in the foods are converted into lactic acid by lactobacilli bacteria. These bacteria are all around us and when used in this way not only preserve the food but increase nutrient levels, make nutrients more available and are easier to digest, because in a sense they pre-digest the food. Even when these foods have been heated they are more easily assimilated by the body. These bacteria also make it impossible for dangerous bacteria to exist because they change the ph of the food. Pathogenic bacteria like to live in a ph environment of anywhere between 4 and 10 depending on the bacteria (for example botulism likes a ph of 4.8 or higher). Fermented vegetables are much more acidic - usually below 4. This makes fermented foods very safe to eat.
When a food is fermented many beneficial bacteria are produced. These helpful bacteria, or probiotics, play a huge part in keeping us healthy. They make many B vitamins and Vitamin K in the intestinal tract, detoxify harmful chemicals, prevent inflammation of the intestinal wall, protect us from pathogenic microbes, breakdown fiber, maintain the appropriate ph of the part of the body that they live in and prevent toxins, hormones and cholesterol from being reabsorbed into the blood stream. They also play a role in filtering what is absorbed through the intestinal wall.
There are hundreds of species of microorganisms living in our body, and this equals about 3 lbs of weight or about 30% of the contents in the colon! Probiotics are the key to a balanced and healthy immune system. Some things that can cause problems within this delicate balance are overuse of antibiotics (antibiotics kill all bacteria, not just the bad ones), alcohol, large amounts of sugar, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), radiation, chlorine, fluoride, bacterial dysentery, stress, high meat & high fat diets, antacids, and other anti-bacterials (even natural ones like oregano oil). Eating fermented foods on a regular basis will help to bring your intestinal flora back into balance.
Some examples of foods high in beneficial microorganisms are naturally fermented yogurt, buttermilk, most cheeses, apple cider vinegar, kefir, miso, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi! There are many more as well. These food items, if purchased in the grocery store, have usually been made non traditionally with artificial flavours and non cultured vinegar (as in pickles and sauerkraut). They have also been subject to pasteurization which kills any of the beneficial bacteria that may have been there. The exception would be miso or yogurt. Read labels to find out if the foods contain these symbiotic micro~organisms or check with your local whole foods store. Some stores carry naturally fermented apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut and/or pickles in the refrigerated section.
I recommend that you try your hand at making your own fermented foods. It’s highly rewarding and really very simple!
Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free
What You Need:
-1.5lbs of nappa cabbage
-1 bunch of green onions
-3tbsp of chopped ginger
-3 cloves of garlic
-1/8 cup of chilli flakes
-1/8 cup of real sea salt
-large sterilized glass jar
1.Chop your cabbage and green onions into bite sized pieces.
2.Using a food processor, grate the carrot and apple. Add these to the cabbage bowl.
3. Place the ginger, garlic and chilli flakes in the food processor (use the small attachment bowl for this) and blend until everything is chopped and it is starting to become a bit of a paste.
4. Add the chilli mixture along with the salt to the vegetable bowl.
5. Using your hands, work the vegetables until they are soft and starting to release their juices (this takes 5-10minutes).
6. Leave on the counter for a few hours, periodically squeeze the vegetables.
7. Using a wooden spoon place the kimchi in a sterilized glass jar, pressing it in tight to prevent air bubbles. Leave a few inches at the top of the jar for the gas to escape. Put your lid on fingertip tight and leave on the counter for 2-4 days to ferment. Open the jar periodically to let some of the gas out or you will have kimchi juice all over your counter.
8. Taste the kimchi after a few days to see if it is to your liking. The longer you leave it the more it will ferment. Place kimchi in fridge. Will keep for several months.
Kimchi tastes great eaten straight out of the jar (make sure you wash spoon in between bites), on top of rice, mixed into scrambled eggs, on toast with avocado, in buddha bowls and many other delicious ways. For the best gut health, eat a least a tablespoon of fermented foods a day!
Love and light xo,
Stress. Ugh. It seems like it just keeps getting bigger and bigger as this year goes on. I don't know how your year has been but 2016 has been a really weird one for me. How do you de-stress? In all honesty, when I hit my limit I eat junk, lots of chocolate, cry, swear a lot, cry some more and lose it. I would like to say that I get all meditational but I often don't. Not until I'm really over my limit and breakdown. Like this last week. Finally I hit myself over the head and said, if you eat better, re-hydrate, do some deep breathing and take a yoga class you will feel so much better Melissa! So that's what I'm working on this week. Baby steps.
Let's just talk about stress for a moment. There are 3 stages of stress:
When the body is under any kind of stress, it uses up nutrients much more quickly, such as zinc, B vitamins, Vitamin C and protein. Include foods high in these nutrients in your diet when you are under stress.
Because continual stress weakens the adrenal glands you can begin to feel increased tiredness and have more illnesses, infections and allergies. To support the adrenal glands, feed them foods like sea greens and green drinks. Fatty acids also support the nervous system and the brain and they are found in eggs, fresh fish and seafood, nuts, seeds and their oils.
In prolonged periods of chronic stress, the adrenals will no longer be able to raise blood sugar for energy and then hypoglycemia may result. It is important then, to eat more frequent meals with protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats throughout the day.
Since I am in need of some serious adrenal support and energy, I whipped up a batch of these re-energizing bliss bites. They are seriously easy and quick to make. Great for snacking when on the run (like I have been this last month-literally on the run chasing after my dog).
Himalayan Pink Salt: This stuff is amazing! When you have a craving for salt, what you are actually having is a craving for missing minerals. When you eat himalayan pink salt you can help fulfill mineral deficiencies which in turn helps support the adrenals (which helps control stress!) Did you know that in himalayan pink salt you get all your 84 essential trace minerals?! Did you also know that table salt (iodized salt) is the bad salt?! Most people think salt is not good for us but the real, true sea salt is so essential for our bodies. During the refining process, iodized salt is stripped of the good minerals and the natural mineral structure is altered. Not himalayan pink salt though!
Maca: Maca, a member of the brassica family, is an adaptogenic root from the Andes Mountains. It is a natural energy, mood and hormone stabilizer. It helps to correct hormonal imbalances in the brain. It is rich in minerals and can also be very helpful in promoting fertility in women and men!
Hemp Seeds: Rich in protein and omega fatty acids, these little wonders do wonders for the body! They are a complete protein and the omega helps support the nervous system and brain.
Dates: I eat a lot of dates because they are so rich in minerals and such an amazing source of carbohydrate. They are incredibly sweet and have a beautiful complex flavour that satisfies my sweet tooth. They are also an excellent source of dietary fibre.
Walnuts: As we can't make omega 3 fatty acids, we have to get them from our diet. And what better way than with walnuts?! Helpful for stress as they support our nervous system.
Re-Energizing Bliss Bites
Makes 24 bites
Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free
-1.5 cups soft, fresh dates
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts
-1tbsp + 1tsp hemp seeds
-2tsp coconut oil
-pinch of himalayan pink salt
-toppings to roll dates in (I used shredded unsweetened coconut and cacao nibs but you can use anything!-sesame seeds, chia seeds, toasted nuts-have fun with it!)
1.Pit dates. Pulse in food processor until they become a sticky paste.
2.Pulse in walnuts
3.Add hemp seeds, maca, coconut oil, cinnamon and salt.
4.Pulse all ingredients until you get a consistency that you can stick together. Sometimes I have to add a few more dates, sometimes more nuts or coconut oil.
5.Roll into balls (about 1tsp for a ball). Roll balls in desired toppings, or leave topping free.
Love and Light,