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Christmas Buckeyes (peanut butter balls!)

christmas buckeyes

Every Christmas that I can ever remember involved Buckeyes! My mom would have an assembly line set up for my sister and I to help dip the frozen peanut butter balls, and despite the brightly frosted Christmas cookies that crowded the cookie plate on Christmas day, the chocolate peanut butter balls were my favorite from very young.

In the beginning of my real food journey, I played the strict card on holidays. And to be honest it was for good reason. I had many food allergies I was working through, and to blow all my hard work on one cookie would not have been worth it. If you are in a spot of really needing to avoid certain foods while you heal your gut, I promise you it is so worth skipping the treats for one year.

After a couple of years of skipping out on my holiday favorites despite having successfully worked through my gut issues, I decided there had to be a better way. Because, really…the holidays are more than just about food, BUT it is enjoyable to have a once a year treat like a Christmas cookie or Buckeye! And think about it…your great grandparents made Christmas goodies without the Crisco – it can be done with less processed ingredients.

I started playing around with how to bake in a more real food way, and as it turns out it really isn’t that difficult to make some real food swaps for the really processed ingredients some of us grew up on.

buckeyes peanut butter balls

I’m definitely not glorifying this as “health food”- sugar is still sugar. But if you are headed to a party or have a gathering set for your house, having an option like this is definitely better than most. And these are SO good!

Christmas Buckeyes
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (if you use something that has more than just peanuts like salt, sugar, or oils added you will have to play around with the salt, sugar, and flour amounts for the right taste and consistency – it will still work – taste as you go along and you are looking for a stiff cookie dough consistency.)
  • ¼ cup soft butter (not melted though)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup organic pure cane powdered sugar
  • ½ cup white rice flour
  • 1 – 10oz bag Enjoy Life Chocolate chips or chunks
Instructions
  1. Combine everything but the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl using hand beaters.
  2. Roll the peanut butter mixture into balls and place them on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet and freeze for one hour.
  3. Use a double boiler method to melt the chocolate. (Or frankly a microwave works fine – it’s not like there’s much nourishment in the chocolate chips to be destroyed by the microwave! Just do 10 second increments and stir in between until melted)
  4. Use a toothpick to pick up the peanut butter balls and dip in the melted chocolate and then place the dipped peanut butter balls back on the Silpat lined baking sheet. If your chocolate begins to cool off too much and gets thick just melt it again.
  5. Freeze the dipped buckeyes for an hour to set the chocolate.

So keep me posted if you try these out for your holiday parties!

homemade peanut butter balls

 

Note from Donielle.

So. Do you call them Buckeyes? Or Peanut Butter Balls? 

When Renee said she wanted to do recipe post for buckeyes I had to figure out what she meant! And peanut butter balls were always a favorite of mine as well. Except I’m pretty certain my mom added wax to her chocolate. Ewww! I’m definitely making these to bring to a Christmas Eve party. (as an added bonus, they are gluten free.)

Gluten free coffee cake (easy peasy overnight cake)

gluten free coffee cake

One of my favorite parts of winter is the smell of baked goods in the oven. It can make the whole house smell comforting and warm. And the holidays are often times when our ovens are constantly filled with cookies, cakes and pies.

I love bringing baked goods to gatherings and I enjoy making deserts that people love. (I also love that I can bake something and people are totally shocked that it is gluten-free)

This coffee cake recipe is one that was passed to me from a woman I used to work with, she brought it to all of our work parties. I doubt she got to bring any home because I know I was not the only one that ate more than once piece!

homemade coffee cake

I’ve played with the recipe over the years as we moved from conventional baking to being gluten-free and it passes with flying colors. In fact, we have family come visit once a year and their request is always this cake, the last time they came I served the gluten-free version. Nobody noticed it was different.

Another thing about this cake that rocks is that it is an over night cake. That’s right. You throw it together the night before and then bake it in the morning. Who doesn’t love waking up to the smell of cinnamon and eating a piece of yummy cake with a cup of coffee?? This is perfect for those mornings you want something special but know you won’t have time when you get up to prepare something elaborate. 

I’ve used this for Thanksgiving morning when we have company. Everyone loves it. Plus, it totally frees me up to get the other food going. We all know how busy Thanksgiving or Christmas morning can be when it comes to food prep. This overnight gluten free coffee cake is perfect to handle the breakfast crowd.

Gluten Free overnight coffee cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of gluten free flour mix (available on Amazon)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ⅔ cup butter
  • 1½ cups evaporated cane juice crystals
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (can sub full fat sour cream)
  • TOPPING
  • ½ cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Combine the ingredients for toppings and set aside
  2. Grease and flour a 9X13 pan
  3. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy
  5. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with butter milk, beating well after each addition
  6. Spread batter into pan and sprinkle topping mixture on
  7. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight
  8. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes
  9. Serve warm

If you don’t have a favorite gluten-free mix, I have used a mix of brown rice flour, tapioca starch and xantham gum and it works well for this recipe.

Also, in a pinch, if you don’t have sour cream or buttermilk you can sour your own milk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to the milk. Mix and let sit for 10 minutes before adding to the recipe.

If you do not need to be gluten free, you may easily use your favorite flour instead of gluten free flour. 

There are a lot of ingredients but the cake comes together quickly. This is a big cake so it is perfect for gatherings! I promise everyone will love it. Serve with coffee and some fresh fruit salad and you have a wonderfully easy breakfast menu already laid out for you.

Holidays are a great time to start traditions, this is one of ours. I can easily see how this will continue on in our family.

Tell me, what are some of your traditional holiday breakfasts? 

easy coffee cake

 

Note from Donielle.

I know. This coffee cake totally has sugar in it and I’m expecting the food police to come out in full force! I don’t advocate eating this every day – or any other high sugar foods for that matter. But I also believe that we can learn to enjoy foods like this with our families on special occasions. My family and I have a tradition of baking cinnamon rolls every Christmas morning and it’s something we look forward to all year.

As an added note, Jessica is a local friend of mine and she brought this over last month. We ate a piece of coffee cake and sipped coffee while we chatted about health and nutrition. It truly is delicious!

Gluten-free apple crisp

A recipe by contributing writer, Jessica who blogs at Simply Healthy Home.recipes for fertility

While I always find it a little bit sad to end a season, I can’t help but love some of the transitions. My favorite being summer turning into fall. The excitement as the air is a bit cooler at night or you start to hear the crunch of leaves as you walk across the grass, fall is beautiful.

Autumn is also probably my favorite time to bake. With the fresh bounty of new vegetables and fruits, the oven warms the house on the slightly cooler mornings and evenings. Squash, pumpkins and apples become readily available and I love to take advantage of the times when I can eat and use fresh, local produce.

Apple time is a busy time, but a fun one. We love to go apple picking and come home to make all sorts of goodies…applesauce, apple pie, dried apple rings and one of our all time favorites, apple crisp.

Apple crisp is less labor intensive than pie, but always yields a  happy response from those that get to enjoy it. Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ve got something good going on! The crisp is easy to throw together and it’s not picky so even the less experienced baker can enjoy making this treat!

homemade apple crisp

With the apple crisp being a little less particular, this recipe was also super easy to convert to be gluten-free. Awesome, right? While the directions below are for a gluten-free apple crisp, you can sub exactly one cup of flour for the rice flour and tapioca starch.

Need a bigger serving? No problem. If you double this recipe, it fits well into a 9×13 baking dish, which is the perfect size to bring to potlucks and family events.

Are you dairy-free? That’s easy to fix. Just substitute coconut oil for the butter and an extra pinch of salt to make up for using salted butter with the topping.

gluten free apple crisp

5.0 from 1 reviews
Gluten-free apple crisp
 
A fall recipe for gluten-free apple crisp.
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups of peeled, sliced apples
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup tapioca starch
  • ¾ cup evaporated cane juice crystals (easily found on Amazon)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup melted butter
Instructions
  1. Grease an 8 inch baking dish and preheat oven to 375
  2. Melt butter and set aside
  3. With a fork, work eat into flour mixture and set aside
  4. Peel and thinly slice apples
  5. Place apples in greased baking dish
  6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the apples
  7. Drizzle butter over the whole mixture
  8. Bake for around 45 minutes, until the top is a golden brown.
  9. Serve warm (With ice cream!)

I can guarantee, this simple recipe will quickly become a favorite. I have brought this to plenty of events and I never return home with any left in the baking dish.

I also love to make this as a dessert when bringing a meal to a family in need. Apple crisp tends to be a favorite among people of all ages.

With the fall season approaching, tell me, what are your favorite ways to use apples? I’m always looking for new ideas to try!

The common housewife’s guide to making mozzarella

by contributing writer Natasha

Cheesemaking used to scare me. Then I lived in a foreign country where cheese was not readily available. It’s really true that necessity is the mother of invention. Did you know that powdered whole milk can be reconstituted and made into cheese? It’s not as smooth as cheese made from fresh raw milk, but it is very doable. And when you haven’t eaten any cheese in three months, it’s even delicious!

When we moved home and bought dairy cows, I made my first batch of mozzarella with fresh milk straight from the tank. Um, yum, y’all. Seriously.

I’m not a fantastic cook, nor am I good at following directions (there may be a correlation there) but even I can handle this simple cheese. The biggest thing to remember is that cheesemaking is not a science (no matter what the books tell you!) it’s an adventure. And as long as you stick to the ingredients given, you can’t mess it up too bad. Even if your mozzarella turns out crumbly, lasagna is very forgiving.

The common housewife's guide to making mozzarellaMozzarella is a great starter cheese because the ingredients are minimal, and the directions simple. You’ll need:

The best milk to use is unpasteurized raw milk but any milk will do. The only kind that doesn’t work is milk that has been UHT (Ultra-High Pasteurized) to extend its shelf-life.

Fun trivia: Mozzarella was originally made from Water Buffalo milk in southern Italy.

For rennet, your best bet is to order cheesemaking rennet online. Unless you have a cheesemaking store in your town, you’ll probably only find “Junket Rennet” which is not strong enough to congeal the curds. If Junket is the only available rennet, use 1-2 whole tablets instead of 1/4. Liquid rennet  is easier to measure but doesn’t last as long. Tablets can be stored in the freezer and retain their strength for years.

Fun trivia: Legend says rennet was first discovered by an ancient traveler who used a re-purposed calf stomach as a flask for his milk. When he went to get a drink, the liquid had formed curds. Today some rennet is still made from the lining of calf stomachs, but it is more popular to use the vegetable alternative.

Citric Acid can be found at any grocery store in either powder or tablet form. It is basically concentrated citrus. Most cheeses use either citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar to help curdle the milk.

I use Real Salt in all my cooking, but any salt will do.

The tools needed for mozzarella are also simple:

  • large stockpot
  • cooking thermometer
  • slotted spoon
  • knife
  • colander
  • microwaveable bowl

Ready to make cheese?

Step One: Measure 1 cup water and add 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid. Measure 1/4 cup water separately and dissolve the rennet into it. (easy so far, eh?)

Step Two: Pour milk into stockpot and add the cup of water/citric acid solution. Mix thoroughly and turn on medium heat. You’re shooting for 90 degrees, which doesn’t take too long, so keep an eye out! Stir enough to keep the milk from sticking. The milk may begin to curdle. No worries.

cheesemaking 2

Step Three: Once you have the milk at 90 degrees, remove it from the heat and stir in the rennet solution. Keep stirring for thirty seconds. When your thirty second are up, stop the milk from moving, cover and set a timer for five minutes. Don’t touch the pan. You’re letting the rennet do it’s job.

cheesemaking

Step Four: When your five minutes are up, uncover and look at your milk. If the rennet did its job correctly, the milk should have formed into a soft jelly-like substance that is slightly separated from the whey (the whey is the watery substance around it). If the milk is still liquid, cover and leave it an additional 5 minutes. If it still has not set, your rennet may not have been strong enough. You can still use the milk, just heat it back up to 90 degrees and add new rennet. (Yes, I know this from experience!) When it is set, take your knife and softly cut the curds, making sure you slice to the bottom of the pan. Cut a grid-like pattern.

Cheesemaking 4

Step Five: Heat the curds to 105 degrees. Stir gently if needed. The curds will be loose and soft. Treat them nicely!

Step Six: Using your slotted spoon, lift the curds gently and place them in the colander. Spin the colander, allowing the whey to finish draining off.

Cheesemaking 6

Step Seven: Place your curds in a microwavable bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. If you have an especially strong microwave, you might want to start with 30 seconds.

cheesemaking

Step Eight: Carefully (it’ll be hot!) knead the cheese, adding your teaspoon of salt and mixing it through. Knead very gently and do not over-knead. The more you mess with the cheese, the tougher it will get (though still yummy, I promise!). If your cheese is very stretchy, it’s done. Form it into a ball, pat it gently, and tell yourself good job. If it isn’t stretchy yet, return it to the microwave for 30 second increments until it stretches easily. Form it into a ball, let it cool, and cut yourself a slice.

cheesemaking

And all that leftover whey? Don’t throw it away! It’s perfect to stick in smoothies, bread, or soups.

Troubleshooting: There are two common complaints when making mozzarella cheese. The first is that the cheese turns out crumbly instead of smooth. This can be caused by using pasteurized milk, or from using too much citric acid which can make the curds separate too quickly. The cheese is still perfectly edible. If it’s not pretty, just shred it up and use it as normal.

The second is that the cheese turns out tough and slightly yellow. This is caused by too much rennet, microwaving it too long, or from over-kneading the cheese. It’s still super yummy. No worries. Melt it on your pizza and enjoy.

Cheesemaking isn't a science, it's an adventure!

 

Have you ever made cheese? What are your best tips?

Gluten-free rhubarb pie

(Written by contributor, Jessica)

Well, it is finally spring! It seemed to take extra long for this past winter to end.

I have been patiently, well really not so patiently, waiting for warmer weather that would start to bring in local produce. One of our first crops in my garden is rhubarb.

rhubarb pie

I remember when I was little I thought rhubarb was the most disgusting thing ever. That is, until I had a really awesome rhubarb pie!

Most rhubarb pies have had an ‘eggy’ feel and I just can’t stand eggy! This recipe is just right.

It is also not overly sweet and combined with the tart rhubarb, it is just right.

If you need a pie crust recipe, check out this one I posted earlier. It is gluten-free but you can also sub cup for cup white flour if you are not a gluten-free family. I am a big fan of the Namaste gluten-free flour blend, I can get it at Costco. And, as much as I love Bob’s Red Mill products, I do not enjoy the gluten-free flour mix for a pie crust.

gluten free rhubarb pie

Gluten-free rhubarb pie
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp. of gluten free flour*
  • 1½ cup evaporated cane juice crystals
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 2 Pie Crust
Instructions
  1. Stir flour and sugar together.
  2. Add egg and beat thoroughly.
  3. Fold in rhubarb
  4. Pour into pie crust and top with other pie crust.
  5. Pinch together edges and put a few slits in the crust to allow pie to breath.
  6. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 350 and cook for 50-60 more minutes. (If you didn't use my gluten free pie recipe your pie may be done sooner as butter crusts take longer to brown)
  8. * I use a gluten free flour mix but rice flour with xantham gum works just fine.

Another really helpful tip I always follow when baking a pie is that I line my oven with foil or bake on a baking sheet. It never fails, that when I forget to do this, my pie leaks all over my oven. I have much better things to do than clean my oven, so I opt for foil!

I’d love to hear from you, what are your favorite ways to use rhubarb? 

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