Sweet Butter Tarts

IMG_6483I received a little inspiration the other day from my sister. She was making pies and butter tarts asking for advice and how to’s as it had been a while since she had made them. Of course I helped her and gave her lots of tips.

She sent me photos of her and the girls (my nieces) creations and it made me a little jealous. I love butter tarts, they are definitely one of my favorites and I hadn’t had one in years! They are so sweet and delectable, nice flaky pastry and yummy sugary sweetness as it melts in your mouth.

Why though hadn’t I made these in so long? I mean pastry challenges aside (I never enjoyed rolling them out and cutting small circles, found it finicky), there was really no reason why I could not make these things. Yes we have chosen to eliminate dairy and sugar from our diets but why had I not adjusted this recipe? I hadn’t even looked at the recipe to see if it could be!

IMG_6471With mouth watering I decided to least attempt it. I mean what was the worst that could happen, I’d end up with a batch that didn’t taste so good and might have to put in the garbage? But if it meant I might be successful and enjoy butter tarts once again :)

So I pulled out the recipe and took a peek. I balked at myself for having left this for so long. This transformation was going to be super easy! It was a simple substitution of Earth Balance, coconut sugar and coconut milk and voila! it was done.

I waited in anticipation as they baked, hoping that I was right and they would turn out. Once they were out I did my best to let them cool at least a little, before I tasted one. Omg! it was absolutely delicious and honestly I could not tell the difference between this one and  the original recipe. Perfect!

I then shared the butter tarts with the kids who loved them and gobbled them up, quickly asking for more. Of course I love these so much I could easily gobble two or three at once, but I resisted, knowing perhaps I could have one for breakfast tomorrow…

And now I am going to share them with you. This is a dairy free sugar free butter tart recipe that you can enjoy without the guilt and really will not notice the difference or compromise on taste.

Butter Tarts

1/3 c. Earth Balance Vegan Spread, meltedIMG_6485

1 c. coconut sugar

2 tbsp. coconut milk (full fat canned coconut milk is best)

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. currants

Make pastry as per directions. (I use Tenderflake and follow their recipe on the back) Roll out pastry to desired thickness (usually between 1/4 to 1/8 inch depending on preference) and cut into 4″ circles. Place pastry circles in prepared muffin tin. (*If tin is not non stick I would highly recommend greasing each opening lightly with Earth Balance. There is nothing more annoying then being unable to get your tart out of the pan without it breaking!)

Combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Fill each pastry circle about 2/3 full. Do not over fill as filling bubbles up when baking and can overflow. Bake at 450F for 8 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake until pastry is lightly browned, no longer than 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

*Tip – if you’re filling did overflow while baking it is a good idea to gently run a knife around the edge of the tart before it completely cools. This prevents the filling from hardening and sticking, making it difficult to get the tarts out of the pan once completely cooled.

Makes 12 medium sized tarts

Enjoy! (Now I’m going to make some more… writing this post has definitely started my mouth watering)

A Biscuit by any other Name

IMG_5950One of my favorite meals, especially in the summer, is corn on the cob with biscuits. I have no idea why I enjoy this combination so much or even where I came up with it, but it must have seemed like a good combination at one time and it seems to have stuck.

The kids get so excited when they see me mixing up the biscuit dough, literally jumping up and down. They always help me husk the corn, loving pulling off the green to reveal the sweet corn inside. (We do this outside on the deck, then we can make a big mess and it doesn’t matter as much)

I usually make the biscuits from a Bisquick mix, using their recipe on the box for drop biscuits, substituting my almond milk and dropping the biscuits by the teaspoon to bake. But the other day when I was grocery shopping and went to pick up Bisquick I looked at the package, actually reading the ingredients in the mix (I am not sure why I have never done this before). In reading the ingredients I realized that it contained sugar, something I have been diligently avoiding and eliminated from our diet. Why oh why had I been continuing to use the Bisquick and not paying attention? This did not seem like me at all. Perplexed by my own idiosyncrasies, I decided not to purchase the Bisquick and put it back on the shelf.

I then remembered that when we were in Australia last summer visiting my sister that she had made these delicious biscuits one night from scratch and had given me the recipe. I knew that regardless of what the ingredients were I could modify it accordingly if needed. I was a little unsure though of where this recipe might be…

picQm6KFZLuckily it was easier to find than I thought, with hardly any adjustments needed. I was off to town and ready to make biscuits! They turned out very well, golden brown, fluffy and delicious! We all gobbled them up, eating them fresh from the oven, slathered with butter.

The recipe makes a good amount of biscuits, boasting 16 good size biscuits on average. I also like the options for this recipe, being able to add in things like cheese or ham if you want to, or simply making a plain biscuit. I also love the slight hint of cayenne that goes into this recipe, as it gives it just that subtle flavor and kick. I have yet to make this recipe and actually roll out the dough. I am lazy, and usually making dinner quickly, and I think they turn out just as nicely. Plus I say why create more work for yourself rolling them out when dropping them by the tablespoon works quite well! No one is going to pass on eating them because of it.

Now though my kids usually associate biscuits with corn on the cob, you can easily serve these with other yummy meals, such as chilis, stews, or whatever meal you want to add biscuits to! They are quick, easy and are a delicious recipe to make from scratch.

Homemade Biscuits

1 cup all purpose flourUS-Shreds-Cheddar

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I use Daiya vegan cheddar)

3 tbsp Earth balance vegan spread

1 cup almond milk

1 tsp honey

Combine flours, baking powder, soda, salt and pepper.  Stir in cheese. Cut in Earth balance until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Combine milk and honey. Add to dry ingredients. Use a fork and stir to form a soft dough.  Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Form a ball and roll out to 1/2 ” -3/4″ thick. Cut into 2 inch rounds. Or if you don’t want to roll the dough, drop by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet.IMG_5948

Bake at 425 F for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

*other additions – may add bits of chopped ham, bacon, onion

Makes approximately 16 biscuits

A Day at the Ranch

IMG_5957One of the things I love about summer is all the cool places that you can go and explore! With most of them being right in your own backyard. I find there are so many locally either within the city or a short jaunt away that there is never a loss for things to do or check out!

The Bar U Ranch is one of those neat little places that we have visited recently. Just a short drive outside of Calgary (95 km on the 22, just past Longview, AB); a National Historic Site and part of the Parks Canada system, this ranch boasts 37 historic buildings set in the rolling foothills of the mountains and commemorating the history of ranching in Canada.

IMG_5959This living history ranch hosts daily activities such as calf roping, wagon rides and round up camp, as well as educational programs, group tours and special events.

On Canada Day, they host a special event where admission is free, with a number of bonus activities to the day (such as face painting, rope making, homemade ice cream and cowboy coffee). This was the day we decided to go and check it out. I had been to the ranch only once before, years ago before the kids were born. At that time I remember the ranch being a large piece of property with pretty sparse buildings and feeling it was not very exciting at the time, but I when I read it now had 37 buildings I was quite excited to go and check it out.


In the cookhouse

We arrived at the beautiful visitors center that hosts a reception area, rangeland exhibit, theatre, restaurant and gift shop. This is also where you pay your admission to go down and explore the ranch. Though on Canada Day admission was free, rates to enter the ranch are quite reasonable with adults $8 and children under 6 are free. I also believe that if you have a National Parks pass that you can gain admission to national historic sites for free upon presentation.


Calf roping

You can either grab the wagon ride down to the ranch or enjoy a short walk downhill to the site. You are met immediately at the bottom of the hill with buildings to explore, such as the bunk and cookhouses. The kids loved the hands on, being able to actually look at and touch things, getting into the bunk and seeing what it was like.

I was impressed with the fact that you could enter all the buildings and that staff were on hand to answer any questions you had or add to your experience. There were also a plethora of interpretative signs, for added information for those of us who like to read (that would be me!) and learn a bit more!

One of the fascinating things we learned was that the Bar U was well known for its excellence in breeding Percheron horses, a draft horse originally from France. These magnificent creatures are well muscled, intelligent horses and willing to work.


Rope making

Luke’s favorite was a story of George Lane, the foreman of the Bar U Ranch, and one of the Big Four, who founded the Calgary Stampede. There is a sculpture of George Lane on his horse with wolves attacking him to the right of the visitors center when you arrive. Fascinated Luke asked me to read the sign to tell him the story. I told him the modified, but fairly detailed 5 year old version, and latching onto it, asked me to tell it to him again and again, until he got it right. The story was George was on his way back from Calgary one night, after visiting his wife who had just delivered their first child. He came upon wolves taking down a cow and went charging in. The wolves starving, due to the extinction of the buffalo (as the government allowed the hunting of the buffalo to extinction), had turned to hunting the cows for food and so the battle of man and nature began.

There are lots of old tractors and equipment to view, barns and even a sod house. The kids can enjoy calf roping, which they caught onto quite quickly and other hands on activities. This is the thing I liked the most, the amount of hands on the kids could do and experience. Not only did it keep them engaged and interested but allowed everyone to try something new and find the thing that they enjoyed or were good at the most.

We spent a good 3 or 4 hours there and comfortably saw it all, without feeling rushed or anyone getting bored. We also lucked out and had beautiful weather that day, but rain or shine, the Ranch is open from May to September each year and is definitely worth the trip!


Camping Desserts – Sugar Free Banana Boats

IMG_4190As camping season begins, I start to think about all the delicious camping meals and snacks that we enjoy. Planning carefully which ones to include, because we can’t go without the favorites, and which new ones to try.

Growing up we had many favorites, such as tin foil dinners, cinnamon apples, s’mores etc. But when we decided to modify our diets and go sugar free this made some of our favorite camping recipes a little more tricky to enjoy. Slowly but surely I have been figuring out how to adjust them to meet our needs, and not miss out on the delectable tastes!

One of the recipes I have been working on is banana boats. A delectable mix of banana, chocolate and marshmallows, warmed and melted over hot coals from the fire. Mmmm, that mix of melted chocolate marshmallow is to die for! I had figured out early on how to remedy the chocolate situation, having taken a raw organic chocolate making course a few years ago. But it was the marshmallows that stumped me – until last year – when I finally found a recipe to make marshmallows; completely healthy and sugar free!

Cinnamon Apple

Cinnamon Apple

Now that I had all my ingredients we were able to try it out. So one lovely and sunny fall afternoon we packed up what we needed and headed out to Bragg Creek Provincial Park to enjoy a short hike and a fire, where we would enjoy roasted hot dogs and try out the banana boats.

The kids were super excited to get things started! Luke and Chloe listening attentively to the directions on how to make their banana boat. First they needed to eat out a bit of the banana, then put in their chocolate pieces and marshmallows. Then wrapped it up in tin foil and place on the hot coals. Turning once, approximately 4 minutes a side.

Luke and Chloe watched in anticipation, asking if it was ready yet, hoping that by watching it it would cook faster. The trick with banana boats is you want them cooked long enough so that the chocolate and marshmallows melt but do not disintegrate and the banana is warm and soft. Depending on the heat of your coals the cooking time could vary slightly. Notice I said coals. You want those hot red embers, not flame and fire, in order to cook your banana boats. Flame will cause your dessert to burn and cook too fast, and who wants a charred banana? :( IMG_4191

Once they were ready we took them out of the fire, using tongs as they are very hot, and placed them on the table. Carefully we unwrapped them and Luke, Chloe and Matthew, spoons in hand, were ready to dig in! I warned them that it would be hot so to let it cool slightly and/or small bites blowing on it. They heeded my advice and tentatively took a bite.  Immediately their faces lit up with hugs smiles and exclamations of how yummy it was! Then quickly diving in for more. All done and faces covered in chocolate, they eagerly asked for another. Unfortunately I had only brought enough for one each, so said we’d have to make them again soon. But I was so pleased that they worked and were a hit! I cannot wait to get out there this camping season and have some more! And this time I will plan for 2 each!

What are your favorite camping desserts? Share in the comments below.


Banana Boats

*to make banana boats you will need one banana per person

Firm ripe bananas

chocolate pieces


heavy duty tinfoil



IMG_4188Cut peel of banana down the sides and across top of banana, creating a flap that you can open. Do not cut the bottom. With a spoon eat out part of the banana. Eat/ scoop out enough to create a space to put in chocolate and marshmallows, but do not eat down to the peel on the other side, you want to leave some banana there.

Place chocolate and marshmallow pieces inside banana. You can put in as much as you want but you do not want to overstuff it! The flap must be able to close over top, otherwise a lot of your fillings will leak out while cooking.

Place flap of banana overtop to close it. Take a medium size piece of heavy duty tinfoil (you want heavy duty as putting it in the fire is intense heat and regular foil will cause it to burn before actually cooking), wrap up your banana tightly.

IMG_4189Place tin foil wrapped banana on hot coals and cook for approximately 4 minutes (cooking times may vary depending on the heat of your coals). After first 4 minutes, flip over to the other side and cook for another 4 minutes.

Remove tin foil wrapped banana from fire using tongs. Open foil very carefully, foil will be very hot! Check banana, if chocolate and marshmallows are melted, then you are ready to eat! If it is not melted as much as  you would like, rewrap banana in foil and place back on coals for a few more minutes.


Bacon in All Things

I love bacon. And so do my kids. They want everything with bacon. If I am making eggs they are asking if they are having it with bacon. Pancakes, waffles, etc. are we having bacon too? I am not sure if they inherently inherited this love of bacon from my younger sister who basically has bacon with everything!

IMG_3309In fact every time I see something with bacon I think of my sister and how much she loves it. I have noticed entire menus centered around bacon and would take pictures and send it to my sister, never really thinking much of it myself. I thought some of these combinations may be odd, but having never tried them I didn’t discount that it had possibilities.

A couple of weeks ago as I was listening to the radio in the car, I heard the morning show crew on KISS FM talking about things with bacon and how the one DJ put bacon on absolutely everything, including her brussel sprouts! I am not a fan of brussel sprouts, but I was intrigued when she mentioned bacon with her macaroni and cheese. Hmmm, I thought, that might actually be good.

Then later that week, while at Beerfest, I noticed that one of the food items being offered was macaroni and cheese with bacon. I was tempted to try some…

Instead I decided to come home and make my own macaroni and cheese with bacon, that way I could make a dairy free version and enjoy it much more (cause honestly once you go dairy free when you have even a trace of it it’s just not worth the symptoms afterwards and just feeling gross). So we finished up at Beerfest, no rush of course :), and then came home for dinner.

IMG_5261I made my mac and cheese like I usually do, using the Daiya cheddar cheese, almond milk and Earth Balance. I maybe added a little extra cheese and I felt this dish would be much better being a little cheesier. Then I cooked up the bacon, I usually use Mitchell’s, which is a brand that does not add sugar to their bacon when curing it. Most brands do unfortunately, but there are a few you can find, like Mitchell’s that do not have the added sugar. My mouth was watering as I was preparing everything, so excited to try this out.

Once everything was ready I crumbled up the bacon, served my mac and cheese and put the bacon on top. Then scooped up some and tasted it. Omg! was it ever good. The flavours worked so well together, the salty bacon giving it just the right taste sensation in my mouth. It was really hard not to overindulge on this dish.

The next week I made it for the kids, who of course gobbled it up! Now I understand how people can combine anything with bacon. There is just something about it that creates a flavour that your tastebuds will enjoy and be asking for more! I love too that I was able to make this in a way that meets my dietary choices of no dairy and no sugar, and still appreciate the combination.

Now I don’t know if I am going to be putting bacon with brussel sprouts anytime soon, maybe it will improve the taste? But I am definitely going to be more open about trying bacon with more things!

Do you have any dishes that you love adding bacon?


How to Set up an Easter Egg Hunt

easter-bunny-2This weekend I have the pleasure of spending Easter with my extended family. An unusual ocassion, my parents and two sisters with our families have come together in my parents BC home to celebrate my father’s 65th birthday. As an added bonus we get to throw Easter into the mix as it falls on the same weekend.

Growing up my sisters and I loved Easter morning. The Easter Bunny would often leave tracks and paw prints, as a a little dirt in the house, as well as fill and hide our baskets and Easter Eggs. We love hunting for everything, in fact this was as much fun as what was in the basket and eggs when we found them. The eggs were the best part. I think because there were so many of them. You’d find one and then there’d be more and more. And sometimes we’d even miss one or two, finding them later in the year because the Easter Bunny had hidden them so well. Now with my own children, I continue the tradition of hiding eggs.

CBs4Mg6UsAAzlJhMy children love it just as much as I did. Peeking out of their room Easter morning, discovering a trail of eggs from their bedroom and down the stairs. Sometimes they discover the Easter Bunny has even left one or two in their room! And they get so excited to learn that he was so close.

Of course over the years I have gotten creative with the hunt. Sometimes hiding eggs outside or making a scavenger hunt out of it with clues inside and a larger prize at the end. In my creativity I got curious, as I do, about the hunt for eggs even began, and what other people were doing with this fun fabulous event.

I discovered this traditional Easter activity has been done for many centuries. Part of a salute to spring it is done in a variety of ways.

The Easter Egg Hunt is a tradition that many children participate in all over the world every Easter. It is a simple activity of finding colored eggs and putting them in an Easter basket. No matter how the hunt is conducted children get excited about this yearly activity.

IMG_0009History of the Easter Egg Hunt

Easter originated as part of the pagan spring celebrations with both the egg and the rabbit as symbols of rebirth and fertility. The egg specifically was a symbol of the rebirth of the earth in the spring. These celebrations of spring and rebirth were adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In my search I learned that there is no known date as to when the Easter Egg Hunt originated, but that the Easter Egg itself has been around for many centuries. In Medieval Europe eggs were forbidden during the Lenten season and therefore were a prized gift when received on Easter Sunday. Eggs were often given wrapped in gold leaves or boiled with leaves or petals of certain flowers to create brightly colored eggs. This tradition eventually evolved into what is known as Egg Rolls and the Easter Egg Hunt.

Variations on How to Set Up an Easter Egg Hunt

There are many different ways to set up an Easter Egg Hunt. Depending on the ages of the participants and what is used in the hunt. All variations may be set up inside or outside.

You will need:

IMG_1226Eggs – colored hollow plastic eggs, chocolate eggs, hard-boiled colored eggs, paper eggs on colored paper (you could color your own eggs with the kids earlier in the week and hide those)

Baskets or fun container for collecting eggs (you could do an Easter craft making your own decorative container of basket)

  1. For each child that is hunting have them choose one color of egg (green, yellow, pink, etc.) Whatever color they choose is the only color egg that they are to retrieve. Hide the eggs inside or out, clearly outline the boundaries and let them hunt! This is great when kids of a variety of ages are hunting because it makes it fair. Older children will not take all the eggs because they are hunting only for their color and it gives the younger children an opportunity to hunt and enjoy themselves.
  2. Set up like a treasure hunt; hide paper eggs with clues on them. For young children, one can simply write the name of the place they need to go to next, like “living room” or “kitchen”. For older children one can develop clues or riddles that they have to solve in order to figure out where to go next. Make as many clues as desired. The last clue will lead the child to his Easter treat.
  3. When doing a hunt for a large group, hide only the colored plastic eggs. Children may use an Easter basket to collect their eggs and may collect as many as they can find. When they are done hunting children then return to the start and trade in all their colored eggs for an Easter treat.

I’m also a firm believer that adults can participate too! All adults need to play and I have watched countless adults enjoy games and treasure hunts. In fact last year I set up a hunt for my friend and he loved it. His eyes lit up and he was so excited as I watched him zoom around finding clues. And of course that is one of the reasons I love that I get to share Easter with my family this weekend. Both my parents and sisters love to play and love to celebrate the holidays, so tomorrow morning there will be a hunt for all of us. And I am sooo excited!!!

A Coffee Smoothie…yes!

warm capuccino-saidaonlineThere’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. That fragrant aroma wafting through the air, the warmth of your mug as you gently lift it up and breathe, pause, then take a sip. Ahhh…I love coffee. And lately I have been drinking a lot of it. Well a lot for me, comparatively to other people I really don’t drink much at all. I drink maybe a cup a day, and there are some days none at all, but for a girl who used to drink one cup of decaf maybe once a week, a full caffeinated brew every day is a lot!

It’s all those fantastic flavored coffees that have done me in, toasted coconut, cinnamon pastry. But they don’t come in decaf and it is the caffeine that sends me flying, high on energy and sometimes a little shaky, probably not so good for me. Yet when the german chocolate cake is calling…

IMG_4721Luckily there’s a smoothie for that :) Yes a way to still get my coffee fix, cause really I think what I am looking for is the flavor, and make it a more healthy choice and experience. It consists of all kinds of good things, like flax seed, cacao, honey and almond milk, with that little splash of coffee to finish it off.

It is quite yummy and satisfying. In fact, I made it for a friend of mine a couple of years ago, an avid coffee drinker and an avid smoothie avoider, and he loved it! He now enjoys them regularly. I also shared it with my mother this past weekend who is very much a smoothie drinker and loves her coffee, so it wasn’t really a hard sell, but she loved it and immediately asked for the recipe.

The recipe is quite simple, combining all the ingredients in the blender, mix and ready to serve. It can easily be made ahead and drunk later in the day, or right away, as I am sure you will not be able to wait.

Chocolate Mocha Smoothie

3/4 c. unsweetend almond milk

2 tbsp. cacao powder

1-2 oz. coffee (you can use decaf if you prefer, or any flavored coffee that you feel goes well with chocolate)

1 tbsp. flax seed oil

1 tbsp. vegan protein powder

1 tsp. honey

optional: 2 ice cubes (this thickens up your smoothie if prefered)

Put all ingredients into a Vitamix blender. Mix until smooth. Enjoy!

The Benefits of Human Touch

Years ago I was writing for a site called Suite 101, it was a great site with a variety of articles on a wide range of topics. I penned many articles there, of which my absolute favorite has always been the one on Human Touch. How we need it in our lives and how important good touch is to our health and survival.

Lately I have heard a lot in the news about touch, from the girls hockey teams in Ontario creating new rules for coaches around touch, to the things that are acceptable in classrooms as well as in our homes. It has reminded me how important this topic is. With the continued use and growth of electronics we continue to become a ‘touch phobic’ society, where the most innocent touch can be misinterpreted and looked upon as bad.

We are right when we say that need to teach our kids the difference between good and bad touch, as well as to not be afraid to hug and touch our children. People in general, we need hugs, or pats on the back, because some of us are very very lonely; and gestures like that can really make all the difference.

My original article is here below, to learn, to share, to teach, to see how important this sense is to us and to nurture it appropriately.

The Need for Touch in the Development of Healthy Adults and Children

Scientists have shown that the amount of body contact (touch) plays a vital role in people’s mental and physical development as infants and in our happiness as adults.

Touch is the first sense to develop in the womb and the last sense to leave in old age. It is essential to the health and well being of human’s emotional, physical and mental development. It is so vital in fact that therapist and author, Virginia Satir, stated that human beings need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.

A “Touch Phobic” Society

In today’s world, technology has reduced the amount of physical contact that people have with each other on a daily basis. With automatic bank machines, online shopping, internet, email and voice mail people can make appointments, dates or decisions without ever actually talking to or seeing another person. Those subtle contacts with others, once common on a daily basis are gone.

In addition, it is more common to hear about situations where touch has been used negatively or inappropriately. The news reports on child abuse cases, sexual harassment suits, and rapes. Parents are teaching children to be wary of strangers, and to be selective in how and what to touch. Though this is beneficial to keep children safe; this has created a society that has become “touch phobic” where the simplest and most innocent touch can be easily misconstrued as sexual, or inappropriate.

Dr. Barnaby Barratt from Santa Barbara Consulting and Healing highlights in his article on Nurturing Touch that “affectional touch is highly beneficial so long as it is experienced as “appropriate” to the situation, and does not impose greater intimacy than is desired, or is not part of some interpersonal “power play.” Touching should neither be coercive nor manipulative. It should be purely giving, and never used as a means to an ends, for example as a maneuver to get someone into unwanted sexual relations.”

Due to the overload of negative touch, society has become very guarded. When people are touched in any form it is often perceived as bad, or inappropriate. Unfortunately this change in perspective has denied people the simple opportunities to enhance their development and one of the key elements needed to thrive and grow.

Children and Touch

A child’s first and most important teacher is his sense of touch. It is the first sense he develops in the womb at only 8 weeks. Babies need it to survive and grow, and this need remains with us throughout our lives.

In the 1940’s, Doctor Fritz Talbot discovered on a visit to a children’s clinic, the connection between touch and babies ability to thrive. Babies that were being held, touched, and mothered were thriving when all other medical possibilities had been exhausted.

This need for touch is especially true with premature babies. In one study, premature babies who received gentle daily massage thrived better and had a 50% more daily weight gains than those that were untouched. In addition, these babies had a more efficient metabolism and were released from the hospital six days earlier.

For young infants and toddlers touch is a main source of learning about the world around them. They use their mouth and hands to explore and learn what things are and how things work. It is a key factor in their development as a child.

Benefits of Touch

The benefits of touch to a person’s health are phenomenal. Touch can reassure, relax and comfort. It reduces depression, anxiety, stress and physical pain; and can be healing. It increases the number of immune cells in the body, and has powerful affects on behaviour and moods. Touch can be used as a form of alternative healing in the form of touch therapy.

In the video Touch the Forgotten Sense produced by Max Films, a study was conducted where women who had been sexually abused were introduced to a good form of touch by receiving massage therapy. A masseuse of the same sex gave the massage, and this helped the women perceive touch as more positive. They also found that the massage reduced their stress level and depressed mood. This introduction of “safe touch” helped these women begin to become comfortable again with being touched.

In the same video, another study was conducted where researchers asked people who had spent no longer than fifteen minutes in a library how they rated their experience in the library. People who had brushed hands ‘accidentally’, with the planted librarian reported a more enjoyable time. In a similar study, people who were touched by their waitress, a brush of the hand, or a gentle touch on the shoulder, said they had a more enjoyable dining experience and left larger tips for the waitress as compared with those people who had no contact.

These studies also demonstrate that we don’t need to consciously notice the touch in order to reap the benefits. Of those that were touched in the library study, not all of the people remembered being touched, but still reported a more pleasant experience than those that weren’t touched at all. People use their sense of touch automatically and may take it for granted on a daily basis. Yet people really notice when there is a lack of it.

Positive Touch Benefits Everyone

Touch is vital to the positive health and development of all human beings, regardless of age. Humans need to touch and be touched, just like they need food and water. It is a way of communicating, lifting their spirits, and experiencing happiness in their lives. Without it people experience sadness, loneliness and isolation. It is important to have this physical contact in people’s lives, yet in today’s society many people are removed from benefiting from it due to negative associations with touch or lack of someone to share touch with.

This is why people have started seeking other forms of human touch in their lives such as attending a Cuddle Party, going for a regular massage, or experiencing other forms of healthy touch.

Valentine’s Day Martini

IMG_4677As some of you know, I am really into martinis these days. It started last fall when my love of pumpkin helped me to discover a recipe for a pumpkin martini. I wasn’t a huge fan of martinis at the time as I had found that most of them were kind of sour, or way too strong for my liking. But I had tried a few, my youngest sister being a fan of them, her favorite being the Cosmo.

The pumpkin martini was absolutely divine! It became my new favorite and as a result I decided to venture out and try some other martini combinations. I’ve enjoyed Lavender one, Gingerbread, and a Poison Apple to name a few.

And now every time we approach a holiday, I am on the hunt for a new one to try that fits with theme of that holiday. Valentine’s Day was no exception, so earlier this week I set out searching the internet for a fabulous ‘Valentine’s’ recipe to try. There were so many to choose from, many with a common theme of red and some kind of fruit, either raspberries or strawberries. Many I have earmarked and saved to my Pinterest board for taste testing at a later date.

The Raspberry Chocolate Kiss Martini was the one that caught my eye and won the privledge of being ‘tested’ for this Valentine’s. Originally created by chef Michael Schulson, I had a few adjustments to make but knew it could be done. First off I had to figure out how to make my own simple syrup, which is basically sugar and water. I had thought before that I could probably do this with agave nectar instead of sugar and create the same thing, but had yet to try it. Well now was the time and I am happy to say it worked very well.

One thing I puzzled over though in the original recipe was the chocolate part (or lack of in my opinion). The only thing that presented any chocolate at all was the cookie rim that went on the glass, not really what I would consider enough chocolate to merit chocolate in the title! So I experimented. I tried making the martini and sprinkling cacao nibs on top. Honestly that did not do much. Then I tried chocolate shavings sprinkled on top, that was better.

I experimented a little more, rimming the martini glass in chocolate icing, ahhhh…now we’re talking. I also tried dipping the rim in melted chocolate and then letting it cool and solidify before adding the martini mix. All, I found were very good solutions to the chocolate I felt was truly missing in this drink. Which is the best? That’s hard to say. I think you should perhaps try them out and then let me know which one you think is the best :)

This martini in general is fabulous, a very delicious fruity sweet drink. I do advise you to be careful though as the sweet easily masks the vodka in it and it goes down very smoothly!

So serve your sweet something a little different this Valentine’s, or baby just make one for yourself and enjoy!

Raspberry Chocolate Martini

*1/4 c. mint infused syrup

10 raspberries

2 oz. vodka

2 tbsp. cranberry juice

ice cubes

Chocolate options:

rim glass with chocolate icing or

dip rim of martini glass in melted chocolate, let cool or

sprinkle chocolate shavings on top of drink

Place raspberries in a martini shaker and shake till crushed. Add mint infused syrup, shake again. Now add vodka, cranberry juice and ice. Shake well until chilled. Pour into martini glass, sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Enjoy! If rimming glass with icing or melted chocolate do this step before pouring martini into glass

*Mint Infused Syrup

1/4 c. agave nectar

1 c. water

1 bunch mint

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan on stove over medium heat. Stir and heat until agave nectar has dissolved. Take off heat and let cool. Strain through a sieve, syrup is ready to use. May be kept in fridge in an air tight container up to 2 weeks.

Everything Chocolate

IMG_4653Rich dark chocolate melting in your mouth, delighting the palate as it brings your tastebuds to life and activates natural soothing in the brain, making us feel oh so good.

Chocolate dating back to the Aztecs and Romans, has long since been considered an aphrodisiac, a treat associated with love and romance. Women love it, men crave it. Not only is it a popular gift, but a popular treat as well.

It’s no wonder that during the week of Valentine’s Day, a holiday long associated with love and romance, 58 million pounds of chocolates are sold, being the third largest holiday in sales of this popular treat (Halloween being first with Easter as the second).

The good news is that chocolate is actually good for you, as it contains fat, produces natural opiates which soothe nerves and make us feel good, as well as natural chemicals that lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (sounding pretty good doesn’t it?) Chocolate provides even more health benefits when made with cacao instead of cocoa, both derived from the same bean but processed differently, creating a superfood (cacao) that is rich in vitamins and minerals (getting better and better all the time).

IMG_4647Chocolate is also one of those things that goes with and can be used in just about anything, creating a myriad of delights for the palate to enjoy, a sensation of pleasure and joy in our human experience.

Since I have discovered how to make my own chocolate at home, (ready in about 10 minutes this really is a quick simple and easy way to make chocolate), we have not only been able to enjoy more chocolate in our home, but also enjoy lots of great things around the holidays.

For instance, this Valentine’s Day, we will enjoy heart shaped chocolates, Chocolate Dream Pie, Chocolate Truffles and if the spirit moves me, I may even make Chocolate Cupcakes with chocolate icing of course (even better these recipes are sugar free and dairy free). I love doing it up around the holidays and seeing what kind of fun things I can create; and the kids look forward to it!

Making your own chocolate is very easy, all you need is cacao butter, cacao powder, vanilla and natural sweetener of your choice (such as honey, pure maple syrup, etc.) I have a detailed post on how to make chocolate, as well as one on possible additions or variations you could use to flavor or fill your yummy chocolates.

IMG_4655This chocolate mix is also great for making Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (simply dip fresh strawberries in warm melted chocolate before it sets) or using it for Chocolate Fondue.

Other chocolate delights I have discovered, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or other, are Chocolate Macaroons (could shape them into little hearts for Valentine’s), Chocolate Pudding (one with chia seeds, one simple chocolate), Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Waffles, Hot Chocolate, Chocolate Smoothies and even Chocolate Marshmallows! And I love that they are all dairy free and naturally sweetened! On holidays, like Valentines, I often have a hard time picking only a few things to make :)

IMG_4658So now you know, you can live guilt free this Valentine’s Day and enjoy your chocolate; or you can venture out and make your own for yourself or to share with others (but you may not want to). Of course with anything, regardless of how good it is for you, everything in moderation (I know I just took all the fun out of it – but here’s the thing you can make MORE or try a new chocolate recipe, another version of chocolate).

So enjoy your chocolate with a great big smile this Valentine’s Day, and if no one gives you any, go get your own, it’s ok :)

*The majority of these recipes can be found on my blog or I have linked them to the appropriate site for you. Just click on the name and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!