Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful


Today, many families find themselves either traveling to, or preparing for the visit of friends and family. Tables are loaded with amazing dishes, whose fragrances waft through the home. Children are eagerly licking their lips in anticipation for that taste of pumpkin pie loaded with whip cream, or the tasty cookies their aunt brought to the dessert table. Adults are enjoying the exchange of memories and laughter, with a nice little cocktail or chilled beer in hand. Dogs are gazing with hope at the nearest plate bearer, almost willing the plate to tip just enough to spill a tasty treat, and cats are huffing and glaring at the newest visitor speaking in baby talk to them, or finding a warm quiet spot to rest.

We are having a quiet, quality day today, spent with each other and enjoying the little things that fill our lives. I am so grateful for the life  my husband and I built together. Our two children, with their own unique personalities, give us reason to laugh and smile daily. Their innocence and personal drives amaze me and their unconditional love for us and the people in their own little worlds reminds me to be thankful for those we've brought into our own lives.

I wish you, reader, a day where you find a moment or two to reflect and realize the good things in your own life. If you have to work today, thank you. If you are home cooking, thank you. If you drove two hours just to be there, thank you. If you are reading this, thank you.

Have a wonderful day and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Always,

Vanessa M.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A New Fall Favorite- Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake with Apple Cider Brandy Glaze made Dairy and Egg Free


This recipe originated from trying to figure out a good cake for my husband. He's an agreeable chap, who tends to fall into the "it's doesn't really matter to me" group when asked what he wants. Usually, this is completely fine and helpful at times, but when you want to treat him to his favorite dessert for his birthday, it actually doesn't help at all. So, there I sat. Pondering the many sweet treats he's had through the years and figuring out which were his favorites. I noticed he seems to go more for the sweet and cinnamon genre of cakes and cookies instead of the rich and chocolaty varieties. Then I recalled how his love for snickerdoodle cookies surpasses many other sweet options.

Do they even make snickerdoodle cakes though? Well, let's hit up Google and see what I find whilst wandering the internet. And yes, there were recipes for such cakes, but alas, none of them were exactly cakes I would be able to enjoy due to the 1lb call for butter, or numerous eggs to the batter, etc. While reading through these recipes, I managed to find a few that had the potential to work well with substitutions thrown in.

The one I landed on worked as the perfect skeleton to let me rebuild and create a cake that would not only be enjoyable for my husband, but also something I could eat on his birthday night as well. Let's face it, if you have to do all the baking, you want to be able to taste the end results!

Without further ado, because I can't stand those blogs that take forever to get to the recipe, here you go!


Snickerdoodle Cake with Apple Brandy and Cider GlazeDairy and Egg Free



Ingredients:

Crust coating-
2 tsps ground Ceylon cinnamon (Avoid Cassia based cinnamon for health and flavor reasons)
1 c white sugar
Coconut oil non stick spray
Dry Mix
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg 
Wet Mix
1/2 c refined coconut oil, at room temperature, or ideally between 70-75 degrees. Virgin will affect the flavor and you will have more of a cinnamon coconut finish as a result.
1 c white sugar
1 c light brown sugar
1/2 cup cinnamon applesauce.
3 tbsps ground flax seed
9 tbsps warm water
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 can full fat coconut milk, preferably Golden Star brand, chilled


Materials Needed
1 large mixing bowl. 1 medium mixing bowl, 1 sifter, rubber spatula, small bowl, measuring cups and spoons, hand mixer, Bundt cake pan.

Instructions-

1. In a small bowl, combine 1 c of sugar and 2 tsps of cinnamon. Mix together well. Preheat oven to 325. Using coconut oil spray, generously spray a 9 inch Bundt pan, being careful to cover all the nooks and crannies, as well as the center tube. Dust the entire inside of the pan with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. You should only need about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar, try and evenly coat the inside surface of the pan, including the tube. Save the remaining sugar and cinnamon mixture and set everything aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set to one side while you move onto the next step
3. Beat just the coconut oil  on medium speed for one full minute. It will begin to fluff and become a nice opaque white. Add the white sugar and mix for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl then add the brown sugar and applesauce. Mix for 2 minutes until the mixture looks light brown and uniform in color
4. In a small bowl mix together 1 tbsp of ground flax to 3 tbsps warm water. Let set and then add to the coconut oil and sugar mixture beating on medium speed for 1 full minute. Repeat 2x more then stir in the vanilla. (It helps to mix each round after you've just poured the previous round into the mix. This way the next one is ready after you've beat the mixture for a minute.)
5. Add the flour mixture to the wet mix alternately with the canned coconut milk and mix on medium until well blended.
5. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of the cinnamon sugar mixture over top. Spread the rest of the batter into the pan and sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture over the top. Take a knife and gently swirl a bit to incorporate the sugar mix into the batter. It does not need to be well mixed. You want it to sort of marble its way through the batter.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. If the pan is still hot to the touch underneath, then wait until it cools to a comfortable warm.





Apple Brandy and Cider Glaze
Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh apple cider
1/2 cup apple brandy
1- 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 splashes vanilla
Tbsps of water if needed

Instructions
1. In small sauce pan simmer cider and brandy until reduced to a quarter of its original volume. Make sure to watch this and stir often to prevent burning. This also brings a caramel undertone to the glaze.
2.  Pour reduction into confectioners sugar until it makes a runny paste golden in color. Depending on the day you may find you need to either add more sugar or more water. Do so a tbsp at a time.
3. While cake is still somewhat warm, drizzle glaze over cake to get absorbed into the cake itself. It really adds a great flavor to the cake and the tart tang of the cider offsets the sweeter flavors of the cake.





For the original dairy and egg based recipe go to http://dozenflours.com/2009/03/snickerdoodle-bundt-cake.html

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Disapproving Cat

Does not approve...






We rescued this "little" lady in our neighborhood and she's a riot of cat. She will let you know with a full throttle lecture when she isn't happy, and she gets this look on her face of pure disapproval. We often will joke about this personality quirk of hers with the saying "Disapproving Cat does not approve." A friend of mine even had a good laugh over it after she commented on the fact that she wasn't exactly a grumpy looking cat but there was something about her
expression.



Don't be fooled though. She's actually very sweet and cuddly. Loves her belly rubs and curling up with the boys on a blanket. She's also known to sneak into the shower to steal a few sips of water, even with a freshly filled water bowl around the corner.

But hey, with an expression like that, you do have to have a little fun with it now and then!



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Decadent and Dairy Free Hot Cocoa and Melted Vanilla Ice Cream Drinks


It's fall, which means cooler weather, and that means "s.n.o.w." becomes the next concern, or joy, in our home. While some may wonder why on earth snow suddenly becomes part of my autumnal lexicon, those who live in my area will understand. The past three years we were "lucky" to be graced with snow in late October or early November. Not exactly normal for our area and no fun when, suddenly, you can no longer pamper the snow blues away with a rich cup of homemade hot cocoa, such as my dietary change created.

I've tried to come up with something that tasted like the cocoa of days gone by, but at the same time actually has some health benefits to it, beyond the warm fuzzies it provides the soul. Because my taste buds are shifting from loving the sweetness of milk chocolate to the bite of dark, I am providing a few different options for sweetening your drink. I know that what I enjoy sipping probably won't go over as well with the younger kiddos out there or those with a sweeter tooth. Let's just say those who relish a bite of 85% dark chocolate will want to sweeten according to the lower measurements. If you want sweeter, increase little by little until you find your happy spot. I'm also providing the stove top prep and microwave approach. Either way you still get an awesome creamy drink, but you may not always have the time to wait for water to boil in the pot. Benefit of the stove top is that you can make many mugs at once instead of one at a time, like the microwave. 

As a little bonus, I'm also going to provide what we call in my family a melted vanilla ice cream in this post because it's another hot drink winner on a very cold day. It's also dairy free and will use the same ingredients, minus the coco powder, and with a little extra spice.


Ingredients for Decadent Dairy Free Hot Cocoa 


Per Drink...

3 heaping tbsps of chilled coconut milk (No lite stuff or pre-boxed here if you really want that creamy mouth feel.)
1 cup water
2 tbsps cocoa powder (I use Hershey, but that's my traditional choice.Also, if your powder is pill-like or hard, then you'll want to sift this first. )
2-4 tbsps raw honey (You can use confectioners sugar using the same measurements.)
1 tsp vanilla extract (Use the real stuff if you got it, but imitation will be ok.)
2 dashes of Ceylon cinnamon *optional (Read up on the health benefits of this variety and ditch the Cassia cinnamon right quick. It's worth it, trust me.)



Microwave approach

Since this is most likely the way most will make it, I'll start here:

1 serving at a time...

1. In a microwave safe mug, add in your coconut milk. Then pour your water over the milk and stir. Microwave on high for 45 seconds.
2. To the mug, add cocoa powder and stir well until powder is well incorporated. (If you are using confectioners sugar, now is the time to add to your mug.) Return to microwave and heat an additional 45 seconds.
3. Add in the honey, if you are opting for this sweetener, the vanilla, and the cinnamon. Stir until honey is melted and enjoy!


Stove Top Approach


1. Bring water to a boil.
2. While you wait, add into your mug(s) the coconut milk, sweetener of choice, and cocoa powder.
3. Slowly pour a cup of water over the ingredients in the mug and stir until well blended.
4. Add in your vanilla and cinnamon, then stir to blend.














Melted Vanilla Ice Cream


So yummy and a nice twist on a typical hot drink after a long day out in the snow.

Ingredients

3 heaping tbsps of chilled coconut milk (No lite stuff here if you really want that creamy mouth feel. I use Golden Star as my go to and nothing else for this particular recipe.)
1 cup water
2-4 tbsps raw honey (You can use confectioners sugar using the same measurements.)
2 tsp vanilla extract (Use the real stuff if you got it, but imitation will be ok.)
2-4 dashes of Ceylon cinnamon. The more you add, the more like a cinnamon roll instead of vanilla ice cream. (Read up on the health benefits of this variety and ditch the Cassia cinnamon right quick. It's worth it, trust me.)
1 dash of nutmeg (Add this in where cinnamon is called for in the recipe options.)



You can make this in the same two approaches as given for the hot cocoa recipe, obviously omitting the hot cocoa and adjusting a couple of the seasonings. Again, the stove top makes it easier to make more at once.


Topping Options Great for Both Recipes: Mini marshmallows, dairy free whipped cream, candy cane, etc.