Gluten Free Bran Muffins with Raisins & Hemps Seeds

gluten free bran muffinsI have always been a fan of muffins. They are a great grab and go snack that will fill your tummy and give you some good nutrition. They are also a fantastic make ahead and freeze for later option as well – something you can quickly grab out of the freezer to add to lunches, road trips or just a quick snack.

I have been dabbling more and more with gluten free recipes as I have noticed that my body does not seem to tolerate it like it used to. Often feeling tired after bread, muffins or anything wheat based, I have been slowly expanding and experimenting with my recipes. I was a little worried about changing my muffins though, as I had found many gluten free muffins to taste grainy or gritty and certainly not to my liking. But I knew that they couldn’t all be that way and that if it was the difference between energy boost and energy drain then I had to give it a whirl. So I started experimenting…

I am a big fan of bran muffins and have been since I was little. I know most people don’t care for bran muffins, more like a love it or hate it relationship, but for whatever reason I really enjoyed them. And it wasn’t just because of the benefits of bran! They were yummy. So it was only natural that one of the first muffin recipes I converted would be a bran one.

I found the original gluten free bran muffins recipe online and loved the addition of hemp seeds for the added nutrition. I also liked that I could create my own gluten free flour as all brands are not created equal, and this way I could choose what went into my mix. A quick modification for the sugar and the dairy I had the perfect recipe, which my boyfriend at the time, loved and he was not a gluten free guy. In fact to this day they are still his favorite muffin that I make.

The kids love them to, though they tend to like banana more, but they will eat them without complaint and I love the hemp seeds and flax added in there.

Gluten Free Bran Muffins with Raisins & Hemp Seeds

1/2 c. ground flax seedgluten free bran muffins

1/2 c. rice bran

1 c. almond milk (unsweetened coconut milk or other non dairy milk of choice)

1/3 c. olive oil

1 large egg

2/3 c. coconut sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour (*easy to make your own gluten free flour mix)

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1 tsp. baking sodagluten free bran muffins

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. hemp seeds

1/2 c. raisins (I like lots of raisins so I add another 1/4 c. but you don’t have to)

In a medium bowl mix together flax seed, rice bran and almond milk. Let sit for 10 minutes while you get everything else ready.

Next, in a large bowl combine gluten free flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and hemp seeds.

In a different medium bowl, beat together the oil, egg, coconut sugar and vanilla. Add the ingredients from the first medium bowl (almond milk/ flax seed mixture) to the egg mixture and stir well.

Stir the almond milk mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Fold in the raisins.

Spoon batter by the teaspoon into greased muffin tin or line with cupcake liners. Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes then remove muffins from muffin tin to allow cool completely.

Store in an airtight container or freeze for easy quick grab and go healthy snacks.

* I found this combination for your own gluten free flour mix online. I make a batch and store in an airtight container so it’s on hand when I need it.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

4 c. superfine brown rice flour

1 1/3 c. potato starch (not flour, they are different)

2/3 c. tapioca starchgluten free bran muffins

A Little Indulgence – Dairy Free Sugar Free Chocolate Icing

dairy free sugar free chocolate icingI have a secret to share with you. It’s one of those don’t tell my kids or I’ll never live it down kind of secrets. I have a bit of an addiction. You know that chocolate icing that I made to ice the cupcakes? Yeah there was some leftover…there’s not anymore…

When I found this recipe for dairy free sugar free chocolate icing I was in heaven. It’s super simple to make and totally delicious! One would never know that it was anything near the sugar free area, let alone no dairy. It is creamy, smooth and definitely chocolatey! It is so good I sometimes eat it with a spoon. Hence, why there are no longer any leftovers in my fridge. Once in a while, when I have that craving for sweet I just dip in and take a spoonful or two…ok sometimes three. I often think to myself I will just freeze the rest and then when I need icing I can just pull it out and use it without having to make a whole new batch (the recipe is quite big – even when I half it I have generous leftovers). But unless I pop it into the freezer right away, yeah, I eat it, in big heaping spoonfuls and hope that my kids don’t find out (because I don’t want them to do it to! I know hypocritical).dairy free sugar free chocolate icing

This simple recipe requires only 4 ingredients and your food processor or blender. I use cacao powder for that extra superfood boost – as cacao is high in magnesium, B vitamins, protein and fiber – but you may also cocao, though not as beneficial nutritionally. And I use this icing recipe for all kinds of things, not just cakes and cupcakes. We put it on ice cream, fruit and last summer we discovered that it is a great substitute for some of those good old camping recipes, like s’mores, or the new one we discovered at Scout camp – a combination of banana, nutella (we use the chocolate icing instead), butter and toasted on a bun – yum!

So regardless what you are going to use it for, whether it be a little indulgence eating it with a spoon, cake or a camping treat, enjoy this quick easy dairy free sugar free chocolate icing guilt free.

Dairy Free Sugar Free Chocolate Icing

dairy free sugar free chocolate icing1 cup cacao powder

3/4 cup Earth Balance vegan spread

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pure maple syrup (high in minerals such as maganese, zinc, potassium and no artificial ingredients compared to imitation syrups containing high fructose corn syrup, added and artificial ingredients, contain no minerals)

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.

Use immediately or may be stored in fridge for up to one week or frozen (unless you eat it all first).dairy free sugar free chocolate icing

Building a Nature City – Outdoor Activities for Kids

outdoor sensory activitiesOne of the many benefits of outdoor nature activities is that they engage all five senses in children’s learning. Outdoor sensory activities like touching sticks, smelling the flowers, hearing the birds, seeing the grasshoppers, even tasting the dandelions!

Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most when they engage their senses. And an outdoor environment is one of the best places to do this! There is a plethora of sights, sounds and tactile experiences in nature, and a lot of times we are experiencing this without even thinking about it. Children just naturally gather sticks, rocks and flowers. They can’t help but be drawn to pick them up. How many times have you told your child to put that stick down or drop those rocks?

In this activity we are actually going to encourage children to pick up natural items and then take their exploration a bit further by creating a city with them.

Building a Nature City – An Outdoor Sensory Activityoutdoor sensory activities

You will need:

buckets

playdough (homemade or from the store)

flat bottom boxes

natural items (to be collected)

The first thing I did to get ready for this activity was make natural herbal playdough the day before. I found this recipe on The Imagination Tree and loved not only the idea of adding the herbs, which provide such a wonderful smell, but the use of real lemon juice in place of cream of tartar. Though I did this myself without the kids, you could easily make this into another activity with the kids (another great outdoor sensory activity) prior to building your nature city. Of course you can use regular playdough as well if you do not wish to make your own.outdoor sensory activities

Briefly explain what you are going to do – gather items, use the playdough, build city with items in your box. Then begin…

  1. outdoor sensory activitiesGive the child a bucket to hold their nature items in, then go out together and gather items. Encourage them to gather a variety of things and only pick up items that are already on the ground. We want to instill in them that pulling live leaves off or breaking branches can hurt the tree, or picking the flowers (with the exception of dandelions) can prevent them from growing again.
  2. Once they have gathered their items return to a spot outdoors where they can have a ‘work space.’ This should be a flat space, like the deck or concrete patio. You could even set up a large piece of cardboard or wood to create an area for them to work.
  3. Give the child a flat box bottom to build their city in. I searched around our house and found that gift boxes work well. You want one where the sides are not too high and the bottom is fairly sturdy. Ideally if you have one of those cardboard trays from your local garden center these work best.
  4. Let them take the amount of playdough they want to create the base of their city in their box. They use the playdough to stick their nature items in to build their city. (I left the bag of playdough there for the kids to take as they needed).
  5. Taking the natural items they collected have them build and create whatever city they have imagined and see the results.

outdoor sensory activitiesWhen I did this with my children they were super excited and engaged in ‘building’ for quite some time. Both were very focused on their cities and they modified and added to them as they went. Luke started out with something very simple but then saw Chloe make a tee pee and decided he needed one of his own. They were at it for a good 20 minutes or more and this was in addition to the time we had already spent collecting our natural items.

Both of their cities turned out very well and were quite creative and unique! They really enjoyed it, especially Luke who actually thanked me the next day for doing that with them because “I really enjoyed it,” he said. I thought that was pretty cool.

Sensory play and exploration is an important part of a child’s development as children learn through their environments. Sensory play stimulates the brain and helps them develop and refine the use of their senses, which is super important for all types of learning! This outdoor sensory activity allows kids to engage all of their senses by touching the natural items (are they rough, smooth, sticky), smelling them as they are working, seeing the different colors and breathing in that good old fresh air while they are creating! They’ll likely discover bugs while they’re out there or notice/ hear a bird fly by. They may even taste the playdough, (which was all natural with herbs) like my daughter did. We always were a family who likes the full experience.

Regardless of what your child’s experience with this activity they will definitely get something out of it. Whether it be the texture of the sticks, enjoying the sounds, they will be engaged, creative and using their imagination while reaping the benefits of a full sensory learning experience!

outdoor sensory activitiesAnd don’t forget to take pictures of their creations once they are done, as they will truly be works of art.

Seeking and Sorting – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

outdoor nature activities for kidsChildren naturally love to be outside. Running, jumping, playing, climbing are all elements of outdoor play. We should not underestimate the value of outdoor nature activities for kids  and playing outside as it has many benefits.

Children who spend more time outside learn to appreciate and care for nature. Their natural curiosity encourages them to explore and learn in ways that we may not even realize. They develop physical and gross motor skills, burn calories, get their Vitamin D and contribute to their aesthetic learning as well. Think of all the colors, sights and sounds out there engaging the senses – from bird song to the feeling of bark under their hands or mud squished through their fingers. These activities are all contributing to the development and growth of your child.

outdoor nature activities for kidsThough free unstructured play in the outdoors definitely has it’s place and benefit, you can enhance your child’s learning experience by doing simple and exploratory outdoor nature activities with them. Deepening their appreciation of nature, teaching them basic skills/ concepts as well as growing their curiosity. Outdoor nature activities for kids can introduce them to something they may not have thought of before or learn about something that they may just take for granted. For instance, the feeling of the bark of a tree – some are rough, some are smooth, while others have a powdery substance on them. Then this can lead them to asking why? why are the barks different? Or looking at and finding all the different colors there are in nature – there is not just green and brown, exploring a little through different activities can show them the many colors of nature and where to look for them.

outdoor nature activities for kidsOver the next 6 weeks, we will explore different outdoor nature activities for children, featuring one activity each week; their benefits and how easy they are to do. You do not need a lot of equipment, just curiosity and a sense of fun and exploration. Depending on the age of the children, will depend on how deep you take their exploration. I find the best is to start simple and then take cues from the child as to where to go with it next and how long to spend on it. Something that might keep one child engaged for 20 minutes, might only engage another for 2. That’s ok, length of time is not important – it is the experience and what they get out of it. Besides the child who is engaged for less time might find another activity of more interest to them and spend longer with that one.

Seeking and Sorting

Children naturally love to collect stuff. They often run outside and collect dandelions, rocks, leaves, etc. This activity uses this concept to start to grow their appreciation as well as some basic math and counting concepts. You can easily do this with a group of children as young as 2 years old or one on one.

  1. outdoor nature activities for kidsGather the children into a circle and show them what it is you want them to collect. Depending on the age of the kids I may ask them to find a specific number or simply to collect as many as they can. For instance, I hold up a dandelion and ask them what it is. If they do not know then I tell them.
  2. Once they have identified what it is I ask them to go and collect 3 of these and bring them back and put them into a pile in the middle. Once they have done that, I will move on to the next item, say a stick. I emphasize that they are only to take sticks from the ground, as we want the ones that are attached to keep growing. I will ask them to collect 4 and bring them back and place it in the pile. Depending on the age group will depend on how many items we go seeking. With preschoolers I usually choose 2-3 items.
  3. Once we have a great big pile, we may pretend it’s a campfire and sing a campfire song. Or I tell them one interesting fact about the items they’ve collected, like pine cones hold the seeds for the new trees.
  4. Then I will get them to sort them into 3 piles, all the dandelions in one, all the sticks in one and all the pine cones in another. Kids not only love to collect, they also love to sort! Sorting activities for children teaches them how to organize, how to determine alike and different as well as beginning math skills.

outdoor nature activities for kidsThe great thing about this activity is it provides the foundation for other activities that you can now use the items you’ve collected to do. Activities like Woodland People, Building a Nature City and Nature Collages all utilize the items you’ve collected and bring in a little creativity and imagination.

Try out this Seeking and Sorting Activity this week and share in the comments below how it went and what favorite things you found!

Next week we’ll build upon this activity by Building a Nature City, that uses what we’ve collected.

Building a Sense of Community with Little Free Libraries

little free librariesPopping up in neighborhoods all over Calgary are cute little wooden houses filled with books. From one room school houses to gingerbread type themes, these Little Free Libraries are a free book exchange aimed to promote literacy, a love of reading and a sense of community.

When I first noticed these little houses popping up I thought they were pretty neat and the concept of sharing books interesting. I had seen a similar concept before in coffee shops where there was an area where you could take a book or leave a book for free, but these houses intrigued me. What were they all about? Was this some one of a kind random unique idea?

First I was drawn to the designs, some old school houses, bird houses or colorful boxes with unique designs. All of them different, all of them housing books of all kinds, shapes and sizes. I found them in my local neighborhood, near the swimming pool, the grocery store, some at the end of the neighbors front lawn. I have always loved books and though I love to read, I also love to share what I read with others. These houses are a great way to do that.

When I looked more closely I realized that these houses were part of a much larger organization. Started in 2009 by Todd Bol of Wisconsin, there are now 36,000 Little Free Libraries around the world. I thought this was absolutely amazing and such a wonderful idea!

I love how I can literally walk out my front door and around the corner to pick up a book. I love how I can take a book, or share a book, and I love that one of the goals of these little libraries is to promote a sense of community. We tend to spend way too much time in our houses and not always getting to know our neighbours, these libraries provide an opportunity to get out there and meet some of them and share common interests.

I think it’s a great way to get kids interested in reading as well, drawn by the unique houses, they are curious to peek in and check them out. My kids often ask if they can take a look inside when they see one, and though there may not always be a book in there for them, it gets them curious, it gets them thinking and exploring. It is also a great way to encourage them to share books they enjoy, in hopes that someone else will find it and enjoy it as much as they have.

So the next time you see a little house at the end of the road or near the local grocery store go and check it out. You never know what treasures you might find or the people you may meet.

Want to learn more about Little Free Libraries? or start one of your own? Check out the Little Free Library’s website with Frequently Asked Questions and explore the world of possibilities.

Easy Strawberry Banana Dairy Free Ice Cream Recipe

One of the things I definitely miss going dairy free is ice cream. A regular staple at my house when growing up; we often had it after supper, asking my parents hopefully if we could have some. Unless we were out, they usually said yes. Knowing that this was one thing I could not give up completely I set out to find some dairy free ice cream recipes.

dairy free ice cream recipeWhen I first started searching for dairy free ice cream recipes I thought that I would always have to make it in an ice cream maker using some kind of dairy free milk and natural sweetener. But what I have discovered is it can be even simpler than that. In fact it is so easy to make a great creamy, dairy free sugar free ice cream that as soon as you’re done reading this post, you’ll probably hop up and make some. Five minutes, maybe less, honestly you’ll be done.

Not to say that using an ice cream maker and an alternative dairy free milk is not a good option. In fact, I have some super yummy ice cream recipes made with coconut milk, like the peanut butter ice cream, that is so creamy and delicious it is worth the few extra minutes to make it. But sometimes you just want a quick treat. Not too much work and not too much thought being put into it. This is why I like this recipe for a dairy free strawberry banana ice cream. Super simple, super tasty and the only thought you have to put into it is do I have frozen bananas?

Dairy Free Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

This easy dairy free ice cream recipe gives you a nice soft serve ice cream in less than five minutes

dairy free ice cream recipe1 frozen banana (*peel banana before putting into freezer)

1 c. frozen strawberries

Put frozen banana and frozen strawberries into Vitamix blender. (If you do not have a Vitamix, a high powered blender of some kind is recommended due to the fruit being frozen and to prevent burning out your blender. If you have a standard blender, just proceed slower or blend fruit in smaller amounts to prevent burnout). Turn Vitamix on starting at low speed and slowly turn up to high. You may need to use tamper to push frozen fruit down to thoroughly mix. Once you have a soft serve consistency ice cream is ready to serve. Scoop into bowls and enjoy!

This dairy free ice cream recipe can also be made with different kinds of fruit, substituting the strawberries for raspberries or mango, etc. We have found though that the banana is a key part of the recipe in order to get that nice ice cream consistency and should always be present.

This is also a great recipe to make with kids as it is super easy for them to help with by putting the fruit into the blender or turning it on under the direction of an adult. It’s perfect for a hot summer day when you want a yummy cool treat and super quick to make. With just a little pre planning by having frozen fruit ready in the freezer you can literally whip it out in no time!

Celebrating Earth Day with Children through Outdoor Activities

earth day activities for childrenInstilling in children a love and appreciation of the outdoors, nature and the environment at a young age is something that they will take and incorporate throughout their lifetime; growing into the adults that will care for our planet. Earth Day is one of those events that not only brings focus to the importance of caring for our planet but is a great opportunity to involve kids. These Earth Day Activities for Children not only celebrate Earth Day, but are things that children can continue to do everyday.

Why do we celebrate Earth Day? I was asked this once by a small child (my own actually) who was inquisitively looking up at me with wonder in their eyes, waiting patiently for my answer. I paused, thinking how best to answer this child, a future ambassador of the planet, knowing how important it was that they not only understood what Earth Day was but why it was important for them to be part of it.

Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, is a worldwide event in over 193 countries to promote and support the protection of our environment and our planet. Even in 1970, when this event began, people recognized that we needed to protect and look after our environment in order for it to not only be sustainable, but healthy, for both the Earth and for us. This is why it is never too early to involve children in this annual event and teach them that it’s not only about celebrating one day, but about the actions that we should be taking all year long. The importance of looking after and caring for Earth.

Earth Day Activities for Children

Most kids naturally love to be outside. They are curious about the world around them and want to know more. Use these hands on experiences this Earth Day (and every other day) to deepen their appreciation for the natural world showing them the wonder and uniqueness of our environment.

Tree Rubbings

earth day activities for childrenAn easy activity all you need is plain white paper, some crayons and a tree.

  • Place paper against the bark of the tree (smaller children may need help holding the paper).
  • Gently rub crayon over the paper, the pattern of the bark will come through and create a unique design.
  • Cover as much of the paper as you like, then remove the paper from the bark and admire your design

You can also do this with leaves. Gather a number of different leaves then on a flat surface place the leaves with your paper over top. Rub the crayon over the leaf and see the imprint come through. You can do more than one leaf on a page and change your crayons to make them different colors!

Paint Pallet

There are so many different colors in nature. Grab some paint chips from your local hardware store and take them outside.earth day activities for children

  • Give a paint chip to the child
  • Go for a walk with them and find something in nature that matches the color on their paint chip.
  • Once found, don’t pick it! either just notice what it is, take a picture of it, or draw your own picture
  • Now choose a different color paint chip and let’s go again!

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of things to find outside and go on a hunt. Include things like leaves, sticks, pine cones. Have the children check them off as they find them. Remember, if it is alive and still growing we want it to stay that way, so don’t pick it.

For small children (ages 4 & under) make your list short 3-6 things and go with them on the hunt. For older children you can create a longer list and setting clear boundaries can send them out on their own or in small groups, to find the items. Regardless of their age, I always like to make sure I can see them at all times (and they can see me for safety).

Nature Collage

This is a fun one that kids can get really creative with.

  • Go on a nature walk
  • Have children gather items in nature. These can be things like small rocks, stick, leaves
  • Take the items home or to an area where you can sit down – flat area of grass, picnic table.
  • On a piece of construction paper, glue your nature items on and create a collage or picture

earth day activities for children Before you head out on your walk let children know that they only pick up things that are dead (not growing anymore), so leaves that have already fallen off the trees, or sticks that are on the ground. It is important to teach them one of the most important lessons in nature is to take only pictures, leave only footprints. This allows everything to flourish and grow and go through it’s natural cycle. Plus it leaves these beautiful things for others who come behind us to enjoy!

There are lots of outdoor activities you can do with children that are easy and fun! I recently discovered an idea about creating an outdoor mud pie kitchen! What a fabulous idea and so simple! Really, I think every child should have one, actually even adults would benefit. (You know I am going to make one right away…)

Teaching children to respect and appreciate our planet at an early age is an important value that they will carry into their adult lives. Not only should we participate in days such as Earth Day, it is important to do activities with kids in their daily lives that instill this love and respect for our planet.earth day activities for children

Giving Children Choice – Benefits of Empowering Children in Decision Making

giving children choiceMany children grow up unable to make decisions because they have had little experience in doing so. Teaching decision making greatly benefits them in life.

Life involves making decisions and choices. It is something people do everyday, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. The value of making conscious mindful decisions and choices is key to living a full and happy life. Children if presented with choice at a young age learn this invaluable tool easily and will greatly benefit them in their adolescent and adult lives.

Benefits of Providing Children with Choice

R. Renee Bembry’s article Giving Children Choices Rather Than Commands sites many benefits to giving children choices starting at a young age. Choices, if presented appropriately, will enable children to learn the benefits of making mindful, conscious decisions.

Giving children choices teaches them how to make decisions, builds their self esteem, develops problem solving skills, independence and makes them feel more powerful and in control of their lives. It teaches them to take ownership of their choices, the value of sacrificing one thing for another and makes them feel that their point of view is valued.

As parents, providing the child with a choice helps to avoid power struggles and reduces frustration while gaining the child’s cooperation. Done correctly this still leaves the parent in control as they are the ones who provide the choices.

How to Provide Choices to a Child

Some parents panic thinking that if they give their child a choice that they will soon be ruling the roost. This is not so, as the parent can choose what the choices will be, and therefore can choose things that they can live with. It is a win win for everyone as the child feels empowered because he gets to choose and the parent still holds the reins by providing choices that they are comfortable with either way.giving children choice

Dr. Khrista Boylan, child psychiatrist, says to start teaching a child how to make decisions, the parent needs to ensure the choice is manageable and realistic for the age of the child. Do not offer choices to children younger than 2 years of age, and not more than 2 options, a or b. The choices need to be realistic, appropriate and acceptable, something the child understands, and the options need to be acceptable to the parent. Do not offer a choice if one of the choices is not acceptable.

As the child gets older one can offer them a broader range of choices. This will help eliminate power struggles with older children.

Parents need to be consistent and let the child choose on a regular basis. It is also important to note that not everything has to be a choice -there are times when as a parent, they must tell the child what to do.

Where to Start Offering Choice

giving children choiceJamie Sullivan’s article Parenting Tips – Why Is Giving Choice Important suggests that the parent start to offer children choice with everyday things like choosing what to wear, what to have for dinner or type of sandwich for lunch. They can be asked for input on family decisions such as what type of outing they would like to go on, or who to invite to play. As they get older the choices can become more complex and where the consequences of their choices become more pertinent. The more opportunities they have to make choices the more they will learn and the more confident they will become in making decisions.

The Value of Good Decision Making

The key to success is knowing the child and what they can handle. This way the parent can provide realistic choices that will ensure the child feels empowered and learns from his experience.

As parents, providing choice builds the foundation for children to make good, sound decisions, where they learn to see the outcomes and accept the consequences (if any) of choosing one over another. This helps them make positive choices in their adolescent years when choices can be potentially life threatening. Teaching them early will only benefit them later in life and develop confident, happy adults.giving children choice

Kids Healthy Cooking – Dairy Free Peanut Butter Ice Cream

sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice creamIce cream. One of the many favorite summer treats, wonderful on a hot summer day. But honestly, great anytime and popular with kids. Growing up in my house ice cream was a staple and often requested after dinner. So when we went dairy free, ice cream was definitely something I missed. But like any change (like when we went sugar free) it was just a matter of shifting gears and finding new recipes to meet our ice cream needs. This is when I discovered this sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice cream.

I had been promising the kids in my Mini Chefs class ice cream for a few classes and many of them kept asking when we were going to make it. In our last class of the session I thought I’d throw it in with our chocolate making, making it a bit of an extra treat. This sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice cream recipe is rich, creamy and delicious. No one would ever know that it did not contain dairy (and don’t worry if peanuts are a concern you can use WOW butter, an awesome substitute for peanut butter. Being in a peanut free facility this is what we used and no one noticed a difference in either look, taste or texture). In fact when we made it in class the kids did not question the ingredients at all. They just heard ‘ice cream’ and were ready to make it and eat it.

sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice creamThis sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice cream recipe is super easy to make with kids. Just put all the ingredients into a blender, blend and then pour into your ice cream maker. If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can take the mixture and put into a freezable container and put in the freezer until firm.

All the kids were bouncing off the walls, waiting for the ice cream to be ready. And when it was, they gobbled it up, most of them asking for some more. I was pleased to be able to finish off the class with something a little more special (and considered a treat), but also still healthy and good for them. By this point, none of them were questioning the ingredients that were going into things, and all of them were willing to try it. Which I think is the greatest success – a child who is willing to at least try it will open up their world of healthy foods and possibilities. Not only with foods, but in other areas of their life as well.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1- 14 oz. can coconut milk, chilledsugar free dairy free peanut butter ice cream

¾ c. coconut sugar

½ c. natural peanut butter (or WOW butter if need peanut free option)

1 tsp. vanilla

3 tbsp. dark chocolate shavings

Prepare your ice cream maker ahead of time by freezing the canister overnight. You’ll also need a good blender to whip the ice cream mixture.

Combine chilled coconut milk and coconut sugar in blender and whip until sugar is dissolved. Add in peanut butter and vanilla. Whip until mixture is creamy and frothy.

*If it’s hot in your kitchen and the mixture is warm-ish, chill mixture before adding to ice cream maker; it will freeze better is mixture is cold.

Set your freezing canister in place and turn on ice cream maker. Pour mixture into freezing canister. Add in shaved dark chocolate.

Churn until frozen. Depending on your ice cream maker this could take 10-15 minutes or up to 30 minutes.

Make roughly 3 cups. Serve in small single scoops as it is rich.

Original recipe from Gluten Free Goddess

healthy chocolateCooking with kids really can be easy and fun. I had a great time working with these kids, gently expanding their palates and horizons. I was pleased to see how everyone progressed and to hear from parents how what they did in class was being transferred to home. Whether it be a food they now liked, making supper, or helping with clean up.

My greatest joy was the success I had with the more particular eaters, one’s who said they did not like much of anything, but by the end of our classes were not only trying everything but loving what we were making. Those kids had come a long way and really grown. It just goes to show how cooking with kids,  and letting them make their own food not only encourages them to eat it, but also to start trying and experimenting with new things.

Get Energized this Spring- With these Green Smoothie Combinations

green smoothie combinationsGreen smoothies are super good for us. Loaded with many health benefits, they are a great way to load up on antioxidants and vitamins in a delicious way that satisfies our hunger. But did you also know that green smoothies are also a great way to detoxify and eliminate toxins from our body?

I’ve been drinking green smoothies on a regular basis for a number of years now because it is an easy way to get some of those vegetables and leafy greens into my day, without chowing down on salad all the time. Not that there is anything wrong with salad, but sometimes I just don’t want it. Putting it into a smoothie makes it easy, palatable, tasty and easy to digest. The fact that it can also detox is a bonus!

green smoothie combinationsThe trick is what to include in your green smoothie in order to reap these detoxing benefits and have it taste good. Many of the best ingredients for detoxing are bitter and astringent fruits or vegetables and the wrong combination can turn out not tasting very good. I don’t know about you but I have had a few green smoothie combinations that I did not enjoy, basically gulping it down and vowing never to have that one again. I know for some people it is the green color in general that deters them, but I can get past that. For me, it needs to at least taste good or I don’t care how good it is for me, I am not drinking it.

What I have found in general is smoothie combinations are truly personal. A combination I enjoy may not be what someone else does. (I have found this to be true in my own family where I will create a smoothie that I love and the kids don’t care for it or vice versa). Because we all have differing and changing palates this is important to know and honor when creating a green smoothie combination that you like.

green smoothie combinationsWhat I discovered when I participated in a Green Smoothie Challenge recently, was an easy formula to use in creating a great, tasty detox green smoothie. A detailed combo guide and basic directions were provided and then we were encouraged to create from there. The guide included a list of different fruits, vegetables, spices and essential oils to choose from that aided in detoxifying. The challenge itself was to create as many different green smoothie combinations as you wanted over the week long challenge and share them on Facebook.

I thought this was fantastic! With this basic guide I could create smoothies that everyone liked and we’d all reap the benefits. Plus I love a challenge and I dove right in, thinking about and creating combinations that I thought would work well together. Because honestly I like variety and for some reason I had it in my head that there were only a few basic green smoothie combinations and you had to go with those. But with this, I felt like a whole new world had been opened up to me, and I was excited!

Throughout the challenge I ended up creating 3 new green smoothie combinations that I really enjoyed – and one that my daughter loves – it’s now her new favorite. Once I got the hang of it I branched out an experimented a little more than I usually would (like using dandelion greens), feeling more and more confident with each created combination.

3 Great Green Smoothie Combinations

Here are my 3 favorite green smoothie combinations that I created during the challenge

Combo #1

4-5 strawberriestropical green smoothie

3-4 leaves of black kale

1/2 – 1 tsp. vanilla

2-3 leaves of fresh basil

1/2 c. coconut water

Combo #2:

1/2 of lime

Mango

handful of spinach

2-3 leaves mint

1/2 c. water

Combo #3: (my favorite)green smoothie ingredients

1/4 of grapefruit

1/2 of orange

4-5 strawberries

3-4 leaves black kale

4-5 leaves dandelion greens

3/4 – 1 c. water

One important thing to remember when creating your detox green smoothies is to avoid adding milks and juices and stick with water or coconut water for your liquids. This is easier on your body to process and provides the most success in your detox. Give these combinations a try and let me know what you think. Or use the green smoothie combo guide and create your own coming back to share what great combinations you’ve discovered. Whether you’re detoxing or not your body will thank you.