Gluten, Dairy, and Soy Free Peanut Butter Cups

I've been daydreaming about peanut butter cups for a while now. There isn't much I miss from my 'old' eating habits, but I'm a sucker for peanut butter mixed with chocolate. Can you blame me??

These were so easy to put together, I can't believe I've never tried before! And though I may be biased, I think they're much better than the kind you find in the grocery store check-out display.

Give 'em a go! I promise you won't be disappointed.

You'll Need:
{makes eight peanut butter cups}
1 1/2 Cup Chocolate {I used what I had on hand--a mixture of Enjoy Life chunks and chips}
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter {another nut butter would work here, if you can't have peanuts}
1/3 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt

Useful tools: silicone muffin cups {image #1, below}, a small scoop {image #2}, and a silicone brush {image #1}.

To Make:

Melt half of the chocolate {3/4 cup} in the microwave by heating in a microwave-safe dish in 30-second increments. Spoon the melted chocolate into silicone muffin cups {or paper, if you prefer}, then use a brush to coat the sides of the muffin cups. Bring the chocolate about 1/2 inch up the sides, as in image #4, above.

Place the chocolate shells in the fridge to harden while you make the peanut butter filling.

To make filling, combine peanut butter, powdered sugar, and salt. The mixture will be very thick! Knead with your hands for a consistent mixture, if necessary.

Using a small scoop, portion the filling into eight equal pieces. If you're not using a scoop, roll the filling into small balls, and place on parchment paper until ready to use, as in image #3, above.

When the chocolate has hardened, place a ball of peanut butter in the center of each cup, smashing it down a bit to fill the opening if necessary. See image #4, above.

Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave, heating again in 30-second increments until it is melted through. Using a spoon, divide the melted chocolate between the cups so that the peanut butter filling is completely covered. Smooth the tops with the back of the spoon.

Transfer the completed peanut butter cups to the fridge to set up, allowing at least one hour.

Note: I wanted to reduce the chance of air bubbles, and create a smooth finish between layers. The cups were sitting in a glass baking dish, so I carefully lifted the dish and hit it on the counter several times between steps, helping everything to settle a bit before moving forward.

This recipe was shared on... Allergy Free Wednesdays

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Gluten Free, Raw, Vegan Chocolate Macaroons {Hail Merry Copy Cat}

I've known about Hail Merry for a while now, but only recently found their goodies locally. I was hesitant to order online because of the {understandably} high shipping costs and what-not. Don't get me wrong! I love the company and respect them very much. Those shipping charges make sense, given what they're delivering.

Anyway, while I love Hail Merry and their offerings, I knew there had to be a way to keep goodies like these in my fridge on the regular without ruining the budget.

I may be biased, but I think these might be even better than the originals! They're melt-in-your-mouth creamy, come together in a snap, and call for only a few simple ingredients. How can you go wrong?! Give them a try today. I promise you'll be glad you did!

{Pssst! Want to see the vanilla/blonde version of these macaroons?? Click Here.}

You'll Need:
1 {heaping} Cup Shredded Coconut {I used sweetened coconut}
1/4 Cup Coconut Oil
5 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder {use the good stuff! you'll thank yourself later.}
1/8 Cup {that's two Tbsp.} Maple Syrup {again--the real stuff! no Mrs. Butterworth's...}
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

To Make:
Add coconut to your food processor, cover, and pulse several times to further break up the coconut.
Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and run the processor again to mix completely. Scrape down the sides if necessary.
Working quickly {coconut oil melts very rapidly in your hands!}, roll the mixture into small balls and place in a dish lined with parchment paper. Better yet, use a small scoop {like this} to measure equally sized portions, depositing them directly on the dish.
Refrigerate immediately, allowing the macaroons to set up, then cover and store in your fridge or freezer.
Makes 10-15 macaroons, depending on size.

Update: A dear friend of mine made these using unsweetened coconut, and noted that she added a tablespoon of agave to the mixture to achieve the sweetness she wanted. Perfect! Feel free to do the same, but work in small increments to avoid adding too much liquid to the mixture.

This recipe was shared on... Allergy Free Wednesdays, Show off Your Stuff Party, Fight Back Friday, Lifeologia, My Meatless Mondays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday

My Handmade Cherry Blossom Canvas

I was inspired several weeks ago by a magazine article I read about creating your own wall art. Some of the ideas were really fun! The cherry blossom canvas, pictured above, caught my eye right away. I was longing for spring {who am I kidding? I still am!}, and the bright pinks jumped right off the page.

But... it was a little too... something. For my taste. So I used the idea simply as inspiration, and this is what I came up with:

I love it! I also love how frequently visitors notice the canvas. It's fun to talk about--and, well, it makes me proud.

I don't really think a TRUE step-by-step is necessary, but read on for some pointers and ideas.

My canvas was damaged, and required a little bit of "repair" before I could apply paint. I didn't need perfection, since the bad spot was mostly covered by a strategically-placed flour, so I simply used some decoupage to attach a paper "patch" on the back side. I applied some white tempera as a base.

Two colors of blue, haphazardly applied and without waiting for coats to dry.

Branches were penciled on, and then painted free-hand with a small brush and brown paint.

I used these round sponge brushes in two sizes. Larger, for the lighter pink part of the painted blossoms, and smaller, for the darker part of the blossoms and for the leaves. Apply paint to part of the round sponge {as pictured} to get a leaf shape.

The painted blossoms and leaves...

For the dimensional blossoms {plucked from a branch purchased at Joann}, I used an exacto knife to poke holes in the canvas, then applied a bit of hot glue to the hole, then shoved the flower in.

Work slowly, stepping back to look at your whole project. It's easy to get ahead of yourself and add too much in one area, or not enough in another.

The birds were traced onto scrapbook paper from an online template, cut out, and attached with more decoupage medium. You could try butterflies instead of birds, or...?

Do you have any handmade canvases in your home? Have I inspired you to make your first?? I'd love to hear about it in the comments, or maybe see a photo!

Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip Cookies {gluten, dairy, and soy free}

These cookies were a happy accident. I had oatmeal cookies in mind, but was pretty bummed out to discover that I lacked a couple of key ingredients. My heart was set on cookies at that point, so I improvised!

Fresh out of the oven, the cookies had a nice crunch on the outside with a chewy center. On day two, after being stored in an air-tight container, they're simply chewy and delish!

You'll Need:
1/2 Cup Earth Balance
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter {another nut butter would also work!}
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups GF All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp. Salt
3 Cups GF Oats
1 Cup Chocolate {chunks, chips, etc.. I used a mixture of chunks and chips}

To Make:
Combine flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine Earth Balance, peanut butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Combine thoroughly.
While the mixer runs, add the eggs and vanilla.
With the mixer running at low speed, slowly add the flour mixture. Mix just enough to combine the ingredients.
Add the oats, mixing again.
With a sturdy spoon, mix in your chocolate. The dough will be quite thick!
Bake rounded spoonfuls of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes, until the edges just start to turn golden brown.

Note: my dough was quite thick, and bordered on crumbly. I used my hands to 'mash' the balls of dough into submission, and the results were perfect! 

I shared this recipe on... Gluten Free Pantry

Curried Chick Peas and Green Peas

I love this recipe. It comes together very quickly, and it's also budget friendly! Feel free to tinker with the ingredients... perhaps subbing cauliflower for the peas? or...? Just about any veggie combination would work. That's the beauty of curry.

You'll Need:
Olive Oil
1 Large Onion {diced}
2 Garlic Cloves {crushed, minced, or otherwise smooshed}
2 Cans Chick Peas {drained and rinsed}
1 Cup Frozen Green Peas
1 Can Tomato Sauce {sizes vary from 15 to 20 oz.--the size of a soup can}
1 Cup Water
1 1/2 Tbsp. Curry Powder {I use this kind}
Cilantro {remove leaves from stems, discarding stems, and chop the leaves roughly}

To Make:
Heat olive oil in a large skillet or cast-iron pan.
Saute onion for several minutes, and then add garlic and stir in. Cook another minute or two.
Add chick peas, green peas, tomato sauce, water, and curry powder, stirring to combine.
Mix in a good handful of cilantro leaves, or more if you really love cilantro like I do.
Cover and cook on medium-low heat for at least 20 minutes. I like to let mine simmer for quite a while, or better still, add everything to the crock-pot and let it cook for several hours.
Serve over rice and top with additional cilantro if you'd like.

Storing Baking Ingredients, Gluten Free Flours, etc.

Gluten free baking comes with a funny little challenge. Have you noticed?? All of those little packages of flour and ingredients can really overwhelm a pantry, quickly turning organizational efforts into a complete failure. It's also really easy to lose track of what you have, especially if it's an item you don't use frequently.

As I unpacked our moving boxes when we were settling into our home, I stumbled on a forgotten shoe organizer. I set it aside with the intention of re-purposing it somehow, and lookie what I came up with! This door leads to our basement stairs.

The individual pockets are great for Bob's Red Mill and other small, specialty flour packages and baking mixes.

Mason jars fit nicely too! These hold things like baking soda, nutritional yeast flakes, and homemade taco seasoning.

I've also got pockets filled with cupcake liners, molasses, Karo syrup, and pectin, for making jam and things.

So--there you go! Several of you have asked me about storage related to all of the crazy baking ingredients. This is my little not-so-secret, secret.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free Glazed Strawberry Cake

I dreamed this cake up yesterday while the sun was shining. I've had strawberries on my mind for several days. It started when a friend replied to my request for inspiration... so here you go, Samantha!

The finished product wasn't exactly as I had imagined it. It's much more dense than I was anticipating. But I think that is actually a GOOD thing. I stashed the glazed cake in the fridge, and it's even more tasty now that it's cold.

My favorite part of the recipe is that it calls for actual strawberries. When I was working out the details of my experimental recipe, I googled around a bit and found that many, many strawberry cake recipes call for packages of Jell-O and other strange ingredients.

Anyway--enough chatter! Here's how to make a cake of your own:

You'll Need:
For Cake:
3 Eggs
1/2 Cup Almond Milk {or rice milk}
3/4 Cup Strawberry Puree {wash and trim your berries, then pulse in a food processor}
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Red Food Color {completely optional, of course}
1 3/4 Cups GF All Purpose Flour {I used Bob's Red Mill}*
1/4 Cup Cornstarch*
1 1/4 Cup Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp. Salt
2/3 Cup Earth Balance

For Glaze:
1/4 Cup Earth Balance {melted, but not boiling}
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 Tbsp. Almond Milk

To Make:
For Cake:
In a small bowl, combine the eggs, almond milk, strawberry puree, vanilla, and food color, if using. Set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour, corn starch, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt.
Run your mixer on low to combine the dry ingredients.
With the mixer running, drop in small chunks of Earth Balance. Combine so that you wind up with a chunky, sandy mixture. Be careful not to over-mix. It should be lumpy and bumpy!
Again with the mixer running on medium speed, add about 1/2 of the strawberry mixture. Combine well, then turn up the speed a bit so that you "whip" the batter a bit. This will give you cake a bit of fluff.
Turn the mixer up just a bit higher, pour in the remaining strawberry mixture, mix briefly, and then turn off the mixer.
Divide the batter into two 8-inch round cake pans that have been greased {I use Spectrum Shortening} and lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until the centers are set and a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for several minutes in the pan, and then, when you can handle the pans, turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool.

For Glaze:
Combine the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl {remember to melt the Earth Balance}, and whisk to incorporate.
Place one cake round on a dish, spread of a bit of glaze on the top, and then stack the second layer on top.
Pour the remaining glaze on the top of the cake, using a spatula to coax a bit of the glaze over the edges if necessary.

It is not necessary to let your cakes cool completely, but keep in mind that a very warm cake will result in more glaze pooling around the bottom of the cake.
I haven't tried it personally, but while we were eating our treat, we decided a layer of sliced strawberries between the two cakes would have been a yummy addition. I'd love to know if you give this a try!

*Did you know?! By combining Corn Starch and AP Flour, you're creating Cake Flour. Since GF Cake Flour isn't readily available on the market, subbing two Tablespoons of Corn Starch per cup of AP GF Flour works just the same.

I shared this recipe on... Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Gluten Free Wednesdays

Chunky Salsa with Cilantro

My hubby deserves the credit for this recipe. He came home from work with the ingredients, bubbling on about what someone had described to him... and then suddenly, a big bowl of yummy was in front of me! We've made it several times since, and I really do love it. I also love how easily it comes together.

3-4 Medium Tomatoes {cleaned up and diced}
1 Large Onion {diced}
Cilantro {washed, leaves removed from stems, and chopped}
1 8 oz. Can El Pato Mexican Hot Style Tomato Sauce {this stuff}
Garlic {1-2 cloves, minced, and completely optional}

Combine diced tomato and onion in a medium bowl.
Add chopped cilantro, stirring to combine. I like LOTS of cilantro, but you you prefer less.
Stir in the tomato sauce {and garlic, if using}, and then season with salt as desired.
Serve with tortilla chips, or, well, however you'd like!

Shared on... recipe of the week

Gluten, Dairy, and Soy Free Glazed Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

I woke up this morning with pancakes on my mind. Our usual Pumpkin Spice Pancakes didn't seem right, though, so I came up with these instead. With or without the buttery glaze, they're a yummy weekend treat.

You'll Need:
For Pancakes:
1 1/2 Cups GF Pancake Mix {I use Bob's Red Mill}
1 egg {egg replacer would work nicely here! or apple sauce}
1 Tbsp. Canola Oil
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
1 Cup Almond Milk

For Cinnamon Filling:
1/4 Cup Earth Balance {I use the Soy Free variety}
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar, plus a heaping Tablespoon
2 tsp. Cinnamon

For Glaze:
2/3 Cup Earth Balance
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
1 1/3 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Tbsp. Almond Milk

To Make:
For Pancakes:
Measure pancake mix into a medium bowl, creating a well in the center.
Combine the wet ingredients, add them to the dry mix, and stir to combine.
Set the batter aside.

For Cinnamon Filling:
Melt the Earth Balance slightly in the microwave so that it is  liquid, but not boiling.
Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon, adding a bit of extra brown sugar if the mixture seems overly runny.
Transfer the mixture to a sandwich bag and set aside.

For Glaze:
Melt Earth Balance over medium-low heat in a small sauce pan.
Stir in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and almond milk. Mix well to combine, then keep warm while you make your pancakes.

To Complete Pancakes:
Clip the bottom corner of the sandwich bag holding your cinnamon filling. You'll use this as you would a pastry bag to "pipe" the filling onto the cooking pancakes. {Use caution! The filling wanted to run right out of the bag, so I had to be sure to place the bag with the clipped corner facing upward when I wasn't using it.}
Spoon pancake batter onto your cooking surface as with your usual pancakes.
Immediately add some of the filling using the sandwich bag in the style of a pastry bag to create a swirl on the un-cooked side of your pancakes.
When they're ready, gently flip the pancakes to avoid splattering the cinnamon mixture.
Serve the pancakes with a drizzle of glaze, or with maple syrup.

How to Make a Zippered Pouch: Basic Tutorial

I'm so excited about these zippered pouches! They began when I searched high and low for a new make-up bag, but was disappointed by the selection {and high prices!} in most stores. I knew I could make something better, and whaddya know, I did!

I'm by NO means an experienced seamstress, and my directions might be a bit... strange? Because I'm no sewing tutorial pro either. That said, PLEASE post questions or ask for help if you need. I'll happily include whatever details I can to help you along.

This is a basic tutorial. For some variations and ideas, stick around. I'll put up another post soon that might spark your creativity. 

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.