Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gluten Free Caramelitas

Since going grain free, I can honestly say that I haven't missed the bread, or the pasta, or the cookies. It helps that I have found some alternatives, (can you say coconut oil and chocolate mint candies?! yum!) to meet those occasional cravings.

However, there was one thing that I couldn't figure out how to get around missing-our family caramelita recipe. It is a divine mixture of oats and freshly ground flour and caramel and chocolate and nuts...and it is so scrumptious that I drool just thinking about it. It is possible that there are some emotional ties to this recipe, as I can recall having them in my earliest childhood memories and making them without using the recipe before I was 11.

In the past week I have been playing with some yummy treats I have found on pinterest. (Did I mention my new obsession?) I made an absolutely delicious samoa cookie, (though I used cultured raw butter for the caramel. Not super impressed with that flavor). While talking to someone about them, I had a bit of an epiphany...I figured out how to do the caramelitas with some of the same ingredients, just tweaking a bit!

Today, I finally got to try it out.

Oh. My. Yes.

I think we have it. Not exactly the same, but a close enough match to make me happy. So, at the risk of having it stolen for use to sell, (um, I just want a kickback. I'm not greedy.), here we go:

Gluten Free Caramelitas
(for dairy free use the coconut)
1 3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 c. coconut flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c. honey
1 egg
1/2 c. cold cut up butter (or coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. toasted coconut, (cooled)

Mix in the ingredients in order, using a pastry blender or your hands when you get to the butter, mixing until is just past crumbly and starting to stick together. You should have a nice press-able dough once everything is in. Divide mixture in half.
Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper so that when it is all cooked you can just lift it out.
Put half the dough into the pan and evenly press it until it fills the bottom. Bake at 350* for about 10 minutes.

While that is cooking make the caramel:

1/2 c. good butter (kerrygold is great!) or coconut oil
3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/8 cup liquid sugar, (honey, or coconut nectar or rice syrup or tapioca syrup)
4 oz. heavy cream or coconut cream
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Cook the sugar and butter together until it starts to bubble just slightly, mixing well the whole time. Add the salt and vanilla and then the cream. Make sure this is in a tall pan as it will bubble up pretty high. Cook, stirring, until it hits 248*. (I actually went over because I was doing too much and let it hit the hard candy point, so that when it cooled it was crunchy. Still worked, just don't burn it!)
By the time it is done, your pan should be out of the oven. Immediately pour the caramel over the crust, smoothing it to cover the entire thing. Set aside the pan to lick when it is cool.

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips-soy free. (you could use the dairy free, soy free, everything free chips here too.)
1/2 cup crushed/chopped raw pecans or walnuts (If you have prepared crispy nuts, use those!)

Sprinkle these over the caramel in order of listing.
Take the other half of shortbread dough and crumble over the top of everything, spreading pretty evenly.

Bake for another 18-20 mins or until the top is golden brown.

Allow to cool. Take out of the pan, using your parchment paper. Place on a cutting board and cut into small squares. Try not to eat them all at once. Everyone is going to want to try them...

(I'll make these again soon and have more pictures to post. I forgot to take pix of the process until they were already cooked! I wasn't sure enough!)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fun hair

I must confess to my new obsession, joining thousands of others equally addicted. Pinterest is my new favorite website! I set up a page as a tool for myself to have a central location to keep all those great recipes that I find and then can never find again, or to put those articles that I want to save, but not on my bookmarks, or even just to have an idea page for crafts and homeschooling ideas for the kids. And it started out fine! I was happily pinning away, saving what I needed and only spending about an hour a month browsing other people's pins. Then it happened. I discovered someone who had GENIUS ideas for storage solutions...and that connected me to someone else with AMAZING ideas for kids science and crafts...and then I saw someone else's ideas for kids art and parties...that's it.

I am officially obsessed.

This morning, after spending WAY too much time browsing through, I came across some princess hair styles.


I have three lovely little princesses! I must try these out!

My first two princesses acquiesced without complaint and were pleased with their results.

My oldest princess, however, is a bit more particular...

Since it is also Chinese New Year today, (the year of the dragon), she decided that she wanted something that would fit the occasion.

When we saw this one, we knew it was the one.

It wasn't even that hard!

But I loved looking at it all day!

At least today, my obsession was justified...we'll see if I can stay away tomorrow...

Oh wait, we are using it for crafts tomorrow. Nevermind. :)

What about pinterest obsesses you?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Juice and Detox and Grains, oh my!

Photo from Evoke blog.
A new year.

New chances for successes.

A quiet time for changes.

This is why I have decided to start off 2012 with some new, and not so new, beginnings.
This month I start school again, for a decidedly different second Master's degree. I will be doing the whole program online, which should allow me to continue to be present for my children in our daily lives. It is for holistic nutrition, which I am very excited about. The best part about the program, for me, is that each of the classes integrates a system of the body with nutrition. THIS is science I can get involved in. After watching my older sister go through all of the anatomy and physiology type classes for her PT program, I am very happy to be learning it all in a context that fascinates me.

My hubby and I are also doing a 21 day juice cleanse. There is not a program that I am following. We are just doing fruits and veggies in season, all juice for me, juice for him whenever he is home, but he will be taking the actual veggies and fruits to work to eat. (Being in his classroom all day is not so conducive for juicing and drinking juice that isn't fresh is just kinda yucky.)
There are many reasons we are doing juice instead of the 21 day sugar detox, or the 30 day paleo challenge. For one, I think it is good to give your body a chance to rest every now and then, allowing the digestive system to redirect much of it's energy into healing the rest of the body. While I strongly believe that going vegetarian is not good for long term, (there is just so much evidence that we need animal protein!), it seems to do really wonderful things for your health and physique on a short term basis. If you have never heard of Gerson's Therapy for cancer, check it out. It is a strong case for short term veggie based diet. Besides, if you have ever talked to someone who has just gone vegetarian, they can't say enough great things about how they feel and how they look.
Another reason we are doing juice is that abstaining from regular foods is an opportunity to add discipline into your life. I don't know about you, but by this time of year, most of my rules and regulations have exited quietly out the back door. (And then run screaming down the street, I think.) While I am anti-system as much as possible, even I have to admit that we all do a little better emotionally, physically and spiritually when there is SOME structure and discipline. This just reminds me of how little effort is really takes to make amazing things happen.

There are more reasons.

I might share some another time.

Photo from Slow Cook.

During our juice fast, I will slowly weaning my children off of grains for the next part of the challenge. Until the end of February, (with the exception of our Third Thursday night out and my birthday), I will be attempting to have my family go grain free. This means no wheat, no rice, no beer, no corn, no grain fed meats and no grain based liquor. Some of this will be easy since we have already been eating a Real Food diet for a few years, (and we don't really drink much). But I gotta say, I'm gonna miss my coconut oil popped popcorn....

I welcome everyone to try the grain free 60 days and share your experiences with me! My sister and some of her friends (and their families) are going to be doing grain free together and we will be posting recipes and ideas of how to make it happen with kids in an easy and affordable way. I might even host a couple carnivals! :) Stay tuned!