Monday, October 29, 2012

Mommy Monday: Vegan Macaroni and Cheese from Scratch (dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free)

Thankfully for us dairy-free eaters, there are a lot of resources and recipes out there on the blogosphere to try. On Sweet Roots, there are recipes for homemade coconut milk mozzarella and cheddar (the cheddar is one of the most popular posts). The recipe below uses cashews as a base. If you are staying away from nuts, you can actually use the homemade coconut milk cheddar to make a nut-free mac and cheese.

I love to experiment but many recipes fall short of my expectations. I want a cheese that is healthy (super processed soy protein isolate? no, thank you) and that will please the palate. Thankfully I have a toddler taste tester to ensure this latter one.

This recipe is derived from this  nacho cheese sauce from Tessa the Domestic Diva.

Introducing dairy-free cheeses to a formally cheese eater can be tough. At first, their taste buds might not welcome the nut or coconut derived versions but try and try again!

To make this more nutritious, I like to boil frozen broccoli, cauliflower or peas in with the noodles to add some vegetable.

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Vegan Macaroni and Cheese from Scratch

Cashew Cheese Sauce
1/2 cup cashews, roasted and unsalted *
1 1/4 cup water
2 Tb nutritional yeast
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp tapioca flour
1 Tb oats (or any flour of your choice)
1/2 tsp dehydrated garlic powder
1/8 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
Pinch of Salt
Splash of Lemon Juice
2 Tb Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Tessa used a butter substitute but I like using olive oil so feel free to use whichever you have on hand)

2 cups Gluten-free Macaroni or Noodles of Choice (I buy mine from winco)

1. Boil water in a medium sauce pan. Add noodles.
2. Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until completely incorporated. (I like to blend dry first then add water and then oil).
3. When noodles have reached desire doneness, strain and set aside.
4. Add the sauce to the pot and let cook on medium for one minute, stirring a couple times to make sure nothing settles. Add noodles and stir until sauce adheres to noodles and thickens. Serve and enjoy!

* You can use raw if you prefer. Tessa did.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to make your own Counting Board Book + a Birthday

Our little girl turned two! Here she is reading her personalized counting book.

We had a little open house to celebrate her second birthday.

There was no overall theme. I just incorporated things she likes - brownies with strawberry caramel icing, hot dogs (and veggie skewers), vegan spinach artichoke dip (she loves to dip chips), popcorn and maple caramel corn (recipe found in Nourishing Meals: Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes for the Whole Family ).

Also we told guests not to feel obligated to bring a gift. Instead I had a counting numbers book that I drew that everyone signed to commemorate her birthday. I thought this was a great way to incorporate learning into a keepsake... our favorite page is the pear page:

And here it is with some thoughts and signatures... (on title page and back)

I bought a 8 x 8 blank board book from Amazon, shown below. Currently they are buy 3 get 1 free! (The discount wasn't applied until I checked out).

And a little about how I did it...

I left the first page blank (except for a title) for everyone to sign and then drew numbers on the remaining pages, 1 to 10. I tied each number to something that matched her birthday or something I knew she liked for example: one birthday girl (plan on putting her picture on this page so no drawing), two birthday candles (she turned two) but then moved on to other things she liked like three bedtime books and eight matryoshka dolls. I'm usually a perfectionist when it comes to art but I've learned to let that go. I first drew in pencil and then in sharpie, coloring it a little bit with colored pencils. Drawing in pencil allowed for mistakes which I'm prone to make plenty and then sharpie adds a nice contrast to grab attention.

Another easier way to do this would be stamping, stickers or even paper and glue - this would be an easy and fun craft for an older sibling to make for the younger child. Really there are so many ways these books could be made - instead of numbers, choose colors, shapes, animals or animal sounds, verses, or even family members who aren't able to visit frequently.

The books come in several different sizes and even accordians. They are very sturdy and hold up to a toddler's attention.

This craft is so versatile. It's also pretty inexpensive for a homemade gift and keepsake.

I plan to get some contact paper to protect the cover, but here is how it looks after it was signed. Excuse Number One, we haven't chosen a picture to place there yet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rooibos Spiced Apple Tea (or red bush tea)

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Rooibos or red bush tea is cultivated in South Africa. I think it has a hearty, honey-like taste. It is very smooth and has very little to no bitterness. It pairs well with fall flavors and spices. It is caffeine free so great for kids. Plus, it is antioxidant rich! It also contains magnesium, potassium, calcium and Vitamin D.

It's surprising that I don't have more recipes with the rooibos here on Sweet Roots because we drink it all the time. You can find it starring in this one recipe Nourishing Calendula Infusion.

This delicious drink is great served either hot or cold. I served it cold at our two year old's birthday party.

For a grown up version, add a splash of brandy to each glass.

Roobois Spiced Apple Tea
2 cups apple juice
2 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Tb loose rooibos tea
1 anise star
Small handful of cloves

*To serve hot:
Boil water and spices with red tea. Let simmer for five minutes. Add apple juice until heated then drain and serve.

*To serve cold:
Boil water and spices with red tea. Remove from heat and let cool for ten minutes. Drain and add to refridgerated apple juice and two cupfuls of ice.

Roobois Tea is available from Mountain Rose Herbsamazon, and vitacost (here's a $10 coupon off your first order). I usually buy mine from Mountain Rose Herbs in large quantities when I'm making a bulk order.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies aka Nutella Happy Cookies (gluten free, dairy free, vegan optional)

These are a version of a well-loved cookie made by my sister and mother which they call "Happy Cookies". In mine, I used a different nut than theirs called for and added cocoa powder because I love the gianduja flavor (or nutella as so many people know it).

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I hope you enjoy these delicious cookies. I know we did!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
2 cups hazelnuts
1/2 cup oat flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour blend - I've used Namaste brand with great results)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup ground flax
1 cup + 2-4 Tb agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup *read notes below
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put all the hazelnuts on a tray and stick in oven for ten minutes or until skins are cracked and toasted. Remove from oven and place half of the nuts in a clean kitchen towel. Rub vigorously to remove the skins from the nut. Repeat with remaining nuts. Put all the filberts in a food processor. Process until sand like texture occurs (you can do finer than this if you prefer but don't go so far as to make it into nut butter).
3. Add to mixing bowl with flour, cocoa powder, flax and salt. Mix.
4. Add vanilla and one cup of the liquid sweetener of choice and mix completely. Add more liquid sweetener until the mixture is completely incorporated and will stick together.
5. Drop large spoonfuls onto sprayed trays or stoneware and stick in oven for 15 minutes. Another option is to drop just tablespoon size cookies and bake 12 minutes. These cookies are pretty WOWzer so one large or two small are the perfect serving.
6. Remove from oven. Let cool ten minutes then place on plate. Would be delicious served with banana ice cream.

*The agave is a wonderful vegan choice for these cookies. I think honey blends deliciously with hazelnut as does maple syrup. Maple syrup usually lends to a more snappier cookie. Agave results in a softer cookie and honey results in a chewier cookie. You can also combine sweeteners if you like.

(Big Blue Eyes modeling her dipped cookie. Thought it was hilarious after she dipped it, she held it out for me to photograph!)

Question of the Day: What's your favorite cookie?

I would say mine is the original "Happy Cookie" but these probably tie with pecan gingersnaps for second.

And another note - I read several books last month on my good ol' kindle. And what's better than a good book and a delicious chocolate cookie? After a grueling month, it can be exactly what you need! So I'm recommending a few (all of which are around $3 or free with prime membership):


Children of the Fallen was a very well-written and descriptive journey of several "angel-kin" as I'm going to call them. It may be offensive to those who take it literally but I thoroughly enjoyed the read and all of the characters involved. Maya Lassiter really did paint a very colorful picture!

The Shore of Monsters was a very unique story about a women-dominated society where all the men either turn into beasts ravaged by the plague or into vegetables with the plague's antidote. Those who enjoyed the classic The Giver will enjoy this. I'm looking forward to reading the second in the series Fall of Darkness (Shore of Monsters, #2)

Daughter of the Bamboo Forest is about little Jade who is cared for by her grandmother. The book starts right after her father remarries. Jade despises her stepmother and longs to find a mother she's never met. Not written like other books, Daughter of the Bamboo Forest was very real and lifelike in its plot. Reminded me a little of Joy Luck Club.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vote for Sweet Roots

Hello Dear Readers!

I've been nominated for Circle of Mom's Top 25 Allergy-Free Blogs
If you have a minute, I'd appreciate it if you voted for Sweet Roots. Actually it only takes like 10 seconds. Hop on over and give us a vote! Best thing, you can vote once every twenty-four hours!

(At this time, I believe Sweet Roots is  #71)

Thanks again for all your support! 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chai Spiced Banana Breakfast Cake

This week has been a whirlwind. Big Blue Eyes got sick - Witty Husband and I working hard to make her feel better and not get sick ourselves, and we're preparing for a memorial this weekend. To top it all off, I was finishing a slideshow for the memorial and my computer got sick... Yeah, that's right. A virus. Then I messed up lunch and dinner... Originally this post was about quinoa but I screwed that up. I mean, come on, who messes up quinoa? I do, apparently.... oh and I broke my favorite photographing dish this week. Boo.

Finally I dropped everything and I called my momma. (Because we all need a shoulder to cry on once in a while).

"Hi Mom. How are you?" Trying not to whimper.

Her reply, "Good. How are you?"

Then I just broke down, "I had an awful day. I need a pep talk."

...And thank the Lord for my Mom! It feels so good to be able to call her whenever and have her listen, sympathize, and then remind and redirect. And that's exactly what I needed. I could have done it myself but sometimes it helps to vent all that bad energy out to someone who can help redirect us.

Some advice from my mom to you all - "You're brilliant!"

You're Brilliant! All of you... so beautifully and brilliantly made by your Creator.

Thank the Lord that He created Mommas! Because that was brilliant.

So after a full day of hair-pulling and heart-clenching, my computer is fine. No files were damaged. Thankfully I caught it early otherwise this blog might be going post-less for a long, long time.

Finally for all those waiting, here is the recipe... Thank the Lord again for Moms and this delicious cake after an awful, terrible, horrible no-good day.

Big Blue Eyes and I ate half of this last night then danced all over. It was a wonderful, brilliant, and beautiful end to our otherwise terrible day.

This Chai Spiced Banana Breakfast Cake is dense - just the way I like banana bread. It is completely sweetened with bananas and is wonderful with a spread of coconut oil or butter of your choice. It's gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, and soy-free along with being vegan!

A reader asked me recently about baking without eggs. I love farm fresh eggs but I understand that some people choose not to eat them and some actually can't. In this delicious breakfast cake, we use bananas and flaxseeds so there is no need for eggs. I found a great chart on substitutes for egg-less baking on pinterest if you are interested in baking more without eggs. We also have a few other egg-less baked good recipes here on Sweet Roots, inluding Pecan Gingersnaps and Mini Spiced Pumpkin Whoopies.

And this cake ends our Chai Journey Week. If you missed out, check out Chai Tea Oatmeal and Pumpkin Cookies with Chai Glaze from Dandelions on the Wall and Chai Spiced Espresso from Alisa's Garden. Here on Sweet Roots, we posted chai spiced elderberry cobbler and pumpkin chai lattes.

For the spices, you can choose to add whichever you like. I included most of the spices from my chai concentrate. Cardamom is super strong so I use just a pinch. Aside from the spices, this cake is only seven ingredients! And it's super easy to make.

I hope this brightens your day as much as it did mine!

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Chai Spiced Breakfast Cake
3 ripe bananas
1/4 c boiling water
3 Tb ground flaxseeds

1/4 cup millet flour
3/4 cup almond meal
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp freshly ground clove
1/4 tsp ginger
Pinch of Cardamom

1. Grind flaxseeds. Combine with boiling water, whisking to prevent clumps.
2. Mash bananas and combine with flaxseeds.
3. Combine dry ingredients in seperate bowl. Then combine wet into the dry ingredients.
4. Bake in a 350 preheated oven in a greased 8" cake pan for 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes then invert onto a plate and serve.

Additional Add-Ins
Chocolate Chips or chopped chocolate
Chopped Nuts or Dates

Would be great with Creamy Vanilla Date Frosting!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chai Spiced Elderberry Cobbler + Foraging (vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, nut-free)

It's elderberry season! And for the week of chai, we are going to explore a rich chai-spiced elderberry cobbler, both dairy and gluten free.

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Elderberries are known to promote health. These dark little jewels have powderful antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. There are used to prevent and shorten the duration of flus. They enhance and strenthen immunity. As we get into flu season, it's a good idea to make a small batch of elderberry syrup to partake in everyday.

Elderberry wines or syrups can be found at health food stores or speciatly wine shops. Here in Idaho, Sheppard Fruit wines sells an Elderberry Wine. My husband bought their pear wine as a gift a couple of months ago and it was divine! These aren't sweet wines - think dry grape wines but made with other fruits. I'll have to get my husband to buy a bottle of elderberry this fall. ;)

We forage for our berries each October (ripeness can vary between early September to late November, usually sweetest after first frost). Look for trees that are away from the road or other polluted sources. Elderberry trees are thornless and have a dark purple berries (the red are poisonious). Also don't pick on private property unless you have the permission from the owner. Be courteous to others and leave some of the berries for other beings, whether it be humans or animals, to find. As always research about the item you're foraging before you pick - many edible plants have a look-alike that is not edible.

The red stems on elderberries can be slightly toxic, use gentle fingers or a fork to loosen the berries from the stems. Also, Rosemary Gladstar suggests cooking these before indulging as some individuals get a stomache from fresh berries. A dear relative, who shares my love interest in elderberries, and I don't have this problem but I always cook it before giving it to anyone else, especially children.

This cobbler is a great way to incorporate berries and indulge in their natural sweetness. The breaded topping has a lovely texture and is wonderfully laced with chai spices. Combined with the antioxidant-rich elderberries, this treat is wonderful!

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Chai Spiced Cobbler
3/4 c oat flour      
2 T flaxseeds
1 t baking powder (or 1/2 tsp baking soda & 1/4 tsp cream of tartar)
1/4 t salt
1/2 c milk
1/4 c applesauce
3/4 t Whole Leaf Stevia Powder or 3 T sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove           
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger        

Elderberry Filling
3 cups Elderberries
1 Tb flaxseeds
2 Tb orange juice

1. Grind flaxseeds for both filling and cobbler.
2. Combine filling ingredients in a 1.6 liter baking dish or 8x8" would work. Stick in oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
3. Combine dry ingredients for the cobbler filling in a bowl and combine wet ingredients in a seperate bowl. Whisk the wet into the dry.
4. Remove the cobbler dish from the oven. Drop the cobbler on top of the berry mixture (will need to use a spatula to get everything).
5. Return to oven and bake 20-25 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkin Chai Latte

This week starts off with our Chai Week! We also have Christina from Dandelions on the Wall and Alisa from Alisa's Garden contributing with some very fun and unique recipes on their blogs this week.

When the air is turning crisp and the leaves are falling, there is just nothing better than a hot cup of chai to guzzle. I love the smell of the spices as they infuse the tea over the stove. Mixed with pumpkin, it's just one beautiful cup of Fall! Best enjoyed in a cozy sweater and with a book.

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Besides being absolutely delicious, Chai is also a multi-tasker! The Ginger helps to increase circulation and aid in digestion (great for nausea) as well as being detoxifying. Cloves can help relieve stomach or tooth pain and strengthen the immune system, killing intestinal parasites. Cardamom helps relieve gas and can be soothing for bronchial problems. Black Peppercorns has antibacterial properties. Cinnamon also aids digestion when stagnant and can be great for indigestion and cramping (Nursing Mothers be careful of cinnamon as it can be the culprit for acid reflux in little ones). It is also can help fight fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections (originally posted on my simple chai recipe).

I already have a simple chai recipe here on the blog which you might have seen mentioned in the Iced Coconut Chai Recipe (are you getting how much I like chai?). But for today's recipe I added a couple more spices and made the concentrate a more robust, detailed below.

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Pumpkin Chai Latte
1/4 part pumpkin puree
1 part chai concentrate*
1 part milk of choice
Sweetener of Choice (I used a little maple syrup = mmmm)

1. Warm chai concentrate, pumpkin puree and sweetener in a small saucepot (or microwave).
2. Seperately, warm the milk. Whisking for foam. (If you don't care for foam, you can heat the two together).
3. Pour the chai tea into the cup then the foamy milk. Sip. Enjoy!

Another option to enjoy this is to freeze the chai concentrate and blend it with the milk and pumpkin for a pumpkin chai frappe.

Chai Concentrate
3 Tb cardamom
3 Tb clove
1 Tb red peppercorns
A few square inches of ginger
1 TB allspice
3 anise stars
6 cups water
3 Tb Black Tea

1. Put all the ingredients except for the black tea in a medium saucepot. Boil then simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and add black tea. Cover for 5-10 minutes (depending on desired strength).
3. Strain and store in fridge.

Meanwhile, you can check out Christina's delicious-sounding, gluten, soy and dairy-free chai-spiced scones on her blog.

If you don't have time to make your own pumpkin puree, you can subscribe and save organic pumpkin on Vitacost (here's $10 off your first order) or 12 pack Farmers Market Organic Pumpkin from Amazon.
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