Bonus- this fudge can be made dairy-free and still have that creamy, melt-in-your mouth text ure!

This week in Joyschool I taught the kids about the process of making chocolate.  I had a library book that had pictures of each step, from cacao tree to wrapped chocolate bars, and I brought hands-on things, as well.  They got to see, smell, and taste bits of roasted cocoa beans (didn't like them!- it's like eating unsweetened chocolate but crunchier.), see and smell cocoa powder, see, smell, and have cocoa butter rubbed into their skin, we melted and molded chocolates (cute little Easter shapes).... and then made this baggie fudge.  If you're making it yourself or have careful children, a single bag is fine, but for this group that includes a few 3-year-old boys, I double-bagged it. :)  This could be a fun Family Home Evening activity AND treat. 
Our batch was made using the coconut oil and coconut cream, since 3 of the kids can't have dairy.

I had brought walnuts in the shell to use in the fudge, but the kids had so much fun cracking the nuts first and eating the bits inside that they were all gone before the fudge was ready.  It's good fudge either way!

Baggie Fudge
1/2 c. coconut oil or butter, softened or melted
1/2 c.  cocoa powder
1/3 c. coconut cream, OR 1/4 c. water and  1/2 c.  nonfat dry milk powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla 
1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 cups unsifted)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Put the ingredients in a gallon-sized ziptop bag.  Put this bag inside another bag if  it seems like a good idea.  Squish, knead, or pound the bag until everything is well mixed.  (Giving the kids 30 -second turns seemed to work the best- and gave them practice counting.)  

Once it's mixed, squish the mixture into a rectangular shape near the top, making the rectangle about an inch narrower on each side than the bag.  Put the bag on a cutting board or similar surface.  Cut down one side of the bag and across the bottom with scissors. Cut fudge into squares, or use small cookie cutters to make cute shapes.  Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.

If fudge is a little too soft, let it chill in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to firm up.



 
 
A friend recently shared this delicious recipe with me.  Since I wanted to make cupcakes for a friend who can only handle sweeteners like honey and agave, it was time to tweak the recipe.  You can find the original, sugar-sweetened, recipe here, if you want to compare it to my version. As cupcakes, they needed more moisture than the original, plus a couple things needed adjusted to allow for honey.  And I discovered that the amount of water your quinoa was cooked in makes a huge difference in whether they're dry, moist, or collapse when baking.   (Not to worry, the problem should be solved now!)   Quinoa is technically a seed and not a grain.

I tried really hard to find a way to use just the blender to make the batter, and not need both it and a bowl, but the batter puffs up so much once the leavening is added, that it just didn't work out that way .  Oh well.

Everyone who has tried these loves them.

Moist Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

1/2 c. uncooked quinoa*
1 1/4 c. water 
1/3 c. any kind of milk (dairy, almond or coconut are fine)
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. melted coconut oil or other liquid vegetable oil
2/3 c. honey
a few drops of orange essential oil, or the washed peel of one clementine, optional
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Cook the quinoa, covered, in the 1 1/4 cups water:  either combine in the microwave or stovetop.  To microwave,  put them in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, then cook for 5 minutes at full power, then 5 minutes at 50% power.  For stovetop:  combine in a pan that has a tight-fitting lid.  (If the lid isn't, use 1 1/2 cups water to compensate for what will evaporate.)  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer for 20 minutes, until water is all absorbed.
*or use 2 cups cooked quinoa and omit the water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put liners in 18-24 cupcake tins, depending on how high you want the cupcakes.

Combine in a blender the cooked quinoa, milk, eggs, vanilla, oil, honey, and orange oil/peel if using it.  Blend until smooth.   Mix the cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.   Pour the quinoa mixture over the top, and stir until well-combined.  Spoon into cupcake liners, or use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop instead to portion out the batter.

For an easy, sweet topping, sprinkle each cupcake before baking with a few semisweet chocolate chips and chopped pecans or other nut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top of a cupcake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Frost with your favorite frosting if you like, or  try any of these.   The cupcakes above are frosted with whipped coconut cream with melted chocolate beaten in:  use 1 cup of chilled coconut cream and 1 cup melted semisweet chocolate.  Whip the cream until it starts to hold soft peaks, then add in the chocolate plus a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.  Beat until fluffy and smooth.





 
 
We have a favorite salad... at a local place called Zupas.  I found a recipe online that a lady had tweaked a little, and I've tweaked it a little more!   The original salad uses strawberries where I used blackberries, but I used what I had: blueberries and blackberries were $.99/cup at NPS.

Sometimes DollarTree has frozen mango chunks, 12 ounces for a dollar. The trick is to visit the store within a week of when they get their monthly frozen shipment.

Mango Berry Salad
Salad:
8-10 cups greens (I used green leaf lettuce)
1-2 cups chopped fresh strawberries (or other slightly sour berry)
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 fresh mango, cubed, or 1 cup frozen mango, diced and mostly thawed
1/3 cup cinnamon honey nuts
 
Combine in a large bowl in the order given.

Creamy Mango Dressing:
1/2 c.Greek yogurt* (plain or something mild like vanilla) 
2 Tbsp. lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
1 fresh mango, pitted and peeled, or 1 cup frozen mango, mostly thawed
1/4 tsp. salt

 Combine in a blender until smooth.  If too tart, sweeten with a little honey.  Makes about 1-1/4 cups. Drizzle  about 1/2 cup over salad; toss to coat.  Serve salad with additional dressing on the side, or save the rest for another day .

*for a dairy-free option, use coconut cream (NOT cream of coconut, which is sweetened)
 
 
I have the HARDEST time finding bouillon that doesn't contain MSG.  Here's a solution:  no MSG, no fillers, no preservatives.  Only what you choose to put in it.

This recipe was adapted from Traci's Transformational Health Principles by Traci J. Sellers

Vegetable Broth Powder     (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup Nutritional Yeast (to make your own, see here)
1/4 cup RealSalt (or Himalayan salt; something with those trace minerals)
1 Tbsp. onion powder (see how to make your own, here)
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. marjoram or oregano, optional
1 tsp. dried lemon peel, optional
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. ground thyme 

 Put everything except parsley in a blender or food processor, in the order given.  Blend until
 powdered.  Add parsley, pulse just enough to chop it a little bit (you're aiming for small bits).  Store in an airtight container indefinitely.  

To use, add a heaping 1/2 tsp. per cup of water, or 1 Tbsp. of powder  for every quart of water.

 
 
photo: Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever run across a recipe calling for nutritional yeast and you didn't have any?  Maybe didn't even have access to some?  Or maybe you attempted to make a batch of bread and the yeast wasn't working anymore?

Too bad I didn't know, a month ago, what I'm about to tell you.  I threw away an entire pound package of baking yeast (Saccharoymyces cerevisiaebecause it wasn't raising my dough.  Sad.

First of all, what IS nutritional yeast?  It's deactivated yeast, frequently the strain used is   Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  Totally dead yeast.  Usually it is cultured in something sweet for a few days, then heated to deactivate it.  It adds a nutty, savory, almost meat-y depth of flavor to recipes. (The term is 'umami'). It also contains B vitamins and is a complete protein. 

I've been studying a new (to me) breadmaking book  (more on that later!), and in it,  the author, Peter Reinhart, gives instructions for making your own nutritional yeast:

 Put 1/4 c. active dry yeast in a hot skillet.  Toast over med-hi heat until it turns a medium shade of brown. 

That's it.

Now, was my dysfunctional pound of yeast ready to be used as nutritional yeast without toasting?  No.  It was only  partly dead.  Or maybe 'mostly dead', to quote a favorite movie.  But it needs to be totally dead  before you consume it.   Besides that, toasting brings out flavor.

Ways to use nutritional yeast:
  • as a topping on popcorn
  • sprinkle on top of things in place of cheese
  • mix into mashed potatoes or scrambled eggs in place of cheese
  • add to soups or white sauces to improve flavor (the flavor acts similar to adding bouillon or broth)
  • use in this recipe for dairy-free buttery spread
  • sprinkle on top of homemade crackers or breadsticks before baking
  • make your own vegetable broth recipe, on this post.  Tastes like chicken.  :)


 
 
See the bottom of this post for photos on making the heart-swirl pattern.

A friend of mine has to avoid dairy, wheat, and oats- and we were going to be together at a potluck lunch on Thursday.  The pumpkin cheesecake last week (for a different group) was such a hit I decided to adapt it so she could enjoy it too.  But with a bit of chocolate.  Like pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies.

I wanted it to be relatively inexpensive- no quart of coconut yogurt! -that stuff's pricey. Coconut milk and coconut cream, sure.  I have that on hand.  
No recipes using those appeared to be online anywhere, though I found the chocolate-version crust here.  There were some cashew-puree based ones- but not only did I not have time to soak nuts, but wanted this to be a recipe even the nut-allergic could use. So I started with my tried-and-true 'normal' recipe, and adapted. And I was willing to buy one 6-oz cup of coconut yogurt to put in the (optional) topping. 
You won't taste the apple cider vinegar, but it adds both the tartness and savoriness you'd get from cream cheese. If you have 2 (14-oz) cans coconut milk and a 19-oz can of coconut cream, that will be exactly enough for the filling, the topping, and the ganache.

If you want to use honey in the filling instead of sugar, use just 1 cup honey plus 1 Tbsp.  Since this also adds about 1/4 cup of water, add about a tablespoon additional pumpkin powder OR a tablespoon oat or coconut flour so the cheesecake won't be too soft.

Gluten free, dairy free Pumpkin Cheesecake
Crust:
1 c. fine-shred coconut, toasted
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 ½ Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ Tbsp. cocoa powder 

Stir together and press firmly onto the bottom of a 9” springform pan.  Set aside.  
For a fall-spice crust instead of chocolate, omit cocoa powder, and instead use                 ½ tsp. cinnamon + ¼ tsp. cloves + ½ tsp. ginger

Filling:
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4  tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. (slightly heaped 1/3 c.) pumpkin powder
2 (14-oz) cans coconut milk
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 c. coconut cream

Mix all together, in order.  Don’t overmix or whip air into it, or it may crack while baking.  Bake at 350 F for  75-90 minutes in a water bath, until center jiggles like Jello and internal temperature is 145-150 F.  Cool in oven or on counter, then chill, covered, in fridge 4 hours or more.

Rum-flavor Topping:
1 cup coconut cream, well chilled
½ cup coconut yogurt
½ cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. rum extract

Whip cream until just beginning to thicken; add all else and whip.  Spread over chilled cheesecake.

Chocolate Ganache drizzle:
¼ c. (1 ½ oz) dairy-free chocolate chips
3 Tbsp. coconut cream or coconut milk

Heat gently to melt chocolate chips; whisk until smooth.  Drizzle on cheesecake.
 
 
Picture
Yogurt Cheese

This is 'strained yogurt', the same thing as authentic Greek yogurt;  use it like cream cheese in recipes, or eat it with a little jam or fruit.   Add a bit of salt if subbing this for cream cheese.  
Since the whey- which contains the lactose, or milk sugar- is drained off, you end up with a product that has twice as much protein and quite a bit less milk sugar.

All you do is pour plain yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined colander, set it over a bowl overnight, and check on it in the morning.  You can either leave it on the counter or do this in the fridge. The longer it drains, the thicker it gets.  It works best with homemade, unthickened yogurt, since added thickeners make it hard for the whey to separate away from the solids.  If you don't have cheesecloth, use something else that liquid can drain through but the solids won't, like the superstrong paper towels, or a clean flat-woven dish towel.
16 ounces of plain yogurt will yield about 8 ounces each of yogurt cheese and whey.  You can substitute whey in place of buttermilk in recipes.  I use it for part of the liquid when making bread.


Picture
Sweetened Condensed Milk- use it to make my favorite, Two-Minute Fudge recipe.  For the closest version to a 14-oz can, use

1/2 c. (non-instant) powdered milk
1/2 c. water
1 c.  sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, optional
To read more about making it or how to use it, see here.
If you happen to need it, here's a recipe for dairy-free sweetened condensed milk 

Picture
Easy No-Bake Cheesecake  

Another great way to use sweetened condensed milk!

 
 
Do you love whipped cream but wished it would stay fluffy like whipped topping does?  
Cool-Whip, move over; your superior is here!  Airy, melt-in-your-mouth, delicately sweet, no hard-to-pronounce ingredients- what could be better?

Use this for topping pies, gelatin, cakes or cupcakes, or anything else you like!  Stir in a little caramel sauce and it's either an amazing dip for apples or an incredible cake filling.  Fold in some melted and cooled chocolate for a mousse-like topping.  White chocolate is delicious mixed in.

The version below that uses gelatin gives the most firmness.  I've kept it in the fridge for two weeks before, without the faintest hint
Yes, you can use this to decorate cakes!  (Just don't let it get too warm, it will melt if it gets above about 90 degrees F, just like butter does.)  This picture is my niece's wedding cake.

If you can't have dairy, use 8 ounces of chilled coconut cream to replace the dairy cream.  Not cream of coconut, that's different.  Coconut cream is the thick layer you find on top of canned coconut milk; Asian markets sell cans of straight coconut cream.

Stabilized whipped cream
½ pint whipping cream (8 oz)
½ tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. sugar or ¼ c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. Ultra Gel OR 1 tsp. unflavored gelatin*

If using Ultra Gel, stir it with the sugar, then add cream and vanilla and whip until stiff.  

If using gelatin, put it with a tablespoon of water, let it sit a minute to soften, then microwave for 12 seconds to dissolve it. You could heat gently on a stove, if needed.   Don't let it boil.  Whip cream, sugar, and vanilla until they start to thicken a little, then slowly pour gelatin in while still beating. Whip until stiff.  Chill it if you need it a little thicker.

Store any extra in the refrigerator.
__________________________________________________________
*Other ways to stabilize whipped cream:
(you can skip the Ultra Gel and gelatin if you use these)

-fold in 4-8 ounces melted and cooled chocolate (the more you use, the more truffle-like the frosting/mousse will be.  Also, the darker the chocolate, the less you need.)

-Beat in 2-4 ounces of cream cheese.

-Before whipping, sprinkle in half a package of instant pudding powder.  (This is really adding  Ultra Gel, which is part of the pudding mix.)

-Substitute 1 1/2 -2 Tbsp honey or corn syrup in place of the sugar, or 3 Tbsp. any flavor jam or jelly.  This will only lightly stabilize it, but works for things you'll eat in the next couple hours.
 
 
Somehow I've ended up with more dried fruit than planned, and it's getting a little old and turning dark.  Here's a new way to use it: a sugar-free caramel sauce!  Well, "sugar free" doesn't actually mean really all-sugar-free, BUT... all the sugar in this is naturally occurring in the fruit.  So it's no-sugar-added caramel sauce.  Unless you're a sugar addict, in which case you could add as much more sugar as you like!   This is a sauce to spoon, not to pour.  If you'd like it pourable, add more milk or some liquid honey or maple syrup until it's the consistency you want.

Next post will be for a rich, creamy, healthy no-bake New York style cheesecake, using this caramel sauce in the filling as the sweetener.

Fruit-sweetened Caramel Sauce

15 pitted dates (about 110g or 4 oz.)
1 to 1½ c. milk, any kind (I used coconut milk)
¼ c. melted browned butter or ghee, optional but helps give a caramel-y flavor
1/16 tsp. salt
1Tbsp vanilla

Blend until smooth, starting with the lower amount of milk; add more only if needed.  Makes about 1 1/2 - 2 cups.   If you don’t have a powerful blender, soak the dates overnight in the milk or simmer them together for 10 minutes, then puree.  If you prefer it sweeter, add a little honey, brown sugar, or stevia.

Try other dried fruits.  Peach is good.  Pear has naturally caramel undertones and would be delicious with a dash of cinnamon or coriander.  
 
 
These have fiber, protein, and much lower in sugar than almost any baked treat!  And they really are good.  My family snarfed down this batch. 
Besides all that, they're also wheat-free and dairy-free.

Healthy Peanut Butter-Chocolate-Banana Bars


1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (one can, drained and rinsed)
2 eggs
2 ripe medium bananas
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. brown sugar or honey (1/2 c sugar. if you like things on the sweeter side)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/3 c. chocolate chips (the darker the better)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Put the beans, eggs, bananas, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in a food processor or high-powered blender.  Run until very smooth.  Stir in the baking powder, salt and oats.  Spread in a greased 8x8 pan then sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Bake 30 minutes or til test done with a toothpick.  Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting.  These are even better the next day.

For a variation on this, substitute pumpkin puree for the banana, increase sugar/honey to 1/2 c., replace almond or cashew butter for the peanut butter, then add 1-2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice.