Rhubarb Punch

Every Spring, I, along with a friend of mine, host a piano and vocal recital to celebrate the final lessons before a much deserved Summer break. During the recital each student has an opportunity to perform and display the new skills they have acquired before a crowd of adoring parents and grandparents.  Applause is guaranteed!  After each student has performed, my friend and I do a number together (she sings and I play), and then we head down for a party with refreshments.  Kate usually comes and serves Steeped Tea for me as well.  People are always excited to try whatever flavours she has brewed up.

Coincidentally, every Spring I have a nice little crop of rhubarb that pops up.  I like growing rhubarb because it doesn’t require anything from me.  I just happen to remember to look one day, and there it is, ready to pick.  No weeding, no fertilizing, no watering – it’s an independent little plant.  That suits me fine.  Needy plants don’t last long at my place.  So for each Spring recital, I make up a batch of Rhubarb Punch.  It is a lovely pink colour, and a really great blend of tangy and sweet.  You can make the base beforehand and freeze it, and just thaw when you need it, and add ginger ale.  Yum!  It’s always a crowd pleaser.

 

Rhubarb Punch

16 cups rhubarb

3 qts. water

3 cups sugar

3/4 cup lemon juice

16 oz frozen orange juice concentrate

ginger ale

 

Boil rhubarb in water.  Stir until tender, then drain – reserving juice.

It will look like this:

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And when it is drained, it will be beautiful and pink, like this:

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Add sugar, lemon juice and orange juice.  Freeze in containers until needed.  When you want to use it, thaw the desired portion and add ginger ale to taste. If you are making a bowl of punch, as I am, just freeze it all in one container, because the amount of base you have, plus ginger ale, will pretty much a full punch bowl.   Delicious.

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Chocolate Sauce

 

 

This past week-end we went over to one of my sons’ homes to have an evening of cutthroat card playing.  We started off with Rummoli, using an old school game board that belonged to my Nana and Papa.  I won.

Here is our very old but cherished game board:

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Then we moved on to 7-Up.  Such a simple game, such potential for ruthlessness, given the right cards.  My daughter-in-law had the right cards a LOT, and she won this one.  We use pennies to “gamble” in this game, but we give them all back at the end, so that’s okay, right?

 

After 7-Up we went on to 45’s.  Now, my daughter-in-law’s family has roots in East Coast Canada, and as far as I can tell, this game originated there.  There are different rules depending on how many people are playing.  I always get laughed at because I can never, ever remember the order of importance of the cards.  But people, if you only knew…..it’s confusing.  For instance, 5’s are high.  And 2’s are low, but only if they are red.  If they are black, they are mid-range in importance.  The Ace of Hearts is always a big deal.  Also, you have to bid on how many tricks you’ll take but you don’t know what’s in the pot (which could help you, but might not) or if your partner has cards that can help you (unless you cheat, which my daughter-in-law and I have been known to do).  The girls won this game as well, and we didn’t even cheat!  My daughter-in-law is a pro, and I’m sure she shuddered when she saw I was her partner.  I held my own though.  Yay me!  This guy does a good explanation of the game here:  45’s.

 

We always eat at games nights.  That night I tried to go healthy, so brought cut-up fruit.  In order to balance it out, however, I also brought chocolate sauce to dip it in.  I also like to use this sauce in smoothies, and I hear it’s good on ice cream too.  It takes under 10 minutes to make, and it is quite literally so easy anyone could do it.

 

¾ cup sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup non dairy beverage (flax, coconut milk, rice milk, etc.)

4 tbsp. butter (or non dairy substitute)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan, and heat until bubbling.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Done!  It will thicken as it cools.  Store in the refrigerator.

Here is a picture, but really, you don’t need it.  It is dark brown delicious sauce.

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And now…..you will never have to buy chocolate sauce again.  You’re welcome!

Cooked Butterscotch Pudding

Phew – we are coming out the other side of the respiratory illness in our house, finally, and moving towards full health.  Yay for that!  However, we are not so healthy yet that we didn’t feel the need for a lovely bowl of warm pudding – you know, comfort food.   I decided that I would veer away from my natural tendency of all chocolate, all the time, and try a butterscotch pudding.  The only problem with my tried and true recipe from pre-allergy days was that it had an egg in it.  After a lot of thought, and a little research, I figured something out, tried it, and it worked!  I am inordinately proud of myself when I am able to come up with a substitution that still tastes good and actually works.

 

So, just in case you are in need of some warm comfort food, or just want to try something new, here is my recipe for butterscotch pudding.

 

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

2 1/4 cups coconut milk

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. gelatin

1 tbsp. cold water

2 tbsp. boiling water

3 tbsp. butter

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a bowl.  Add enough coconut milk to make a thick paste.  In a sauce pan over medium heat, bring the rest of the coconut milk to a boil, stirring constantly.  Stir in the brown sugar mixture, return to a boil, and cook for a minute.

Place your gelatin in a bowl.  Add cold water, and then boiling water, beating with a fork until frothy.  Add a little of the hot pudding mixture to this, to temper it, and then add the gelatin mixture into the saucepan.  Stir with a whisk until thickened.  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.  Pour into bowls and let cool slightly – or refrigerate and eat cold.

 

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Notes:

– you can use palm sugar instead of brown sugar if you want to get rid of the refined sugar in the recipe.

– I am too cheap to use more than one can of coconut milk in the pudding so I topped it up with flax beverage I had in the fridge.  It worked fine.  I’d say you could top it up with any non-dairy milk and be fine.

– this is not a low sugar recipe, as  you can tell, but it’s great for a treat!

Brownies!

Grain Free Brownies

(otherwise known as little chocolate bombs of deliciousness)

 

I was “in a mood” this week.  In a mood as in I had already been sick for 10 days, I wanted comfort food, and having had grain yanked from my diet, couldn’t think of anything in the treat category that I could eat.  So…..I got out the recipe I’d been using prior to this new dietary restriction, and started tweaking it in my mind.    I figured – worst case scenario I could lick the icing off and enjoy that.  🙂

 

The recipe I had been using is from Oh She Glows.  It was already a vegan recipe, but I had to deal with the almond flour it called for.  So without further ado – Grain Free/Dairy Free/Soy Free/Gluten Free/Nut Free/Egg Free Brownies!

 

4 tsp. ground flaxseed

1 cup whole raw sunflower seeds

¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. garfava flour

2 tbsp. arrowroot powder

½ cup cocoa powder

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ cup plus ¼ cup non-dairy chocolate chips

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. butter or coconut oil

1 cup natural cane sugar

¼ cup coconut milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to 350* F.  Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper, and set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together flaxseed and 3 tbsp. water and set aside.  Grind your sunflower seeds into a fine powder (I have a BlendTec – you could use a food processor as well).  In a large bowl, whisk together the ground sunflower seeds, garfava flour, arrowroot, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.

 

In a medium saucepan, melt ½ cup of chocolate chips and the butter/coconut oil over low heat.  Leave on heat until “just” melted.  Remove from heat and stir in flaxseed mixture, sugar, coconut milk, and vanilla.  Add this to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is mixed thoroughly.  At this point add in the ¼ cup extra chocolate chips.

 

Place the batter in the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 28 to 34 minutes.  Completely cool the brownies in the pan, or they will crumble when cut.  Add icing if you like, or leave plain.

Brownies

 

Notes:

  • I know that flaxseed can be classed as a grain, but my naturopath has allowed me to keep it in my diet, for now. If you can’t have it, sub in ground chia seeds instead.
  • I typically don’t like the taste of “bean” flours, but it is well hidden by the chocolate flavour here.
  • Read the label on the cocoa carefully – some are safe, some are not. If in doubt, go for cacao powder, which is purer.
  • You could use any dairy free milk in these. I just chose coconut milk.
  • As a side note:  a great tea for helping with this long lasting cold was Lemon Honeybush.  I drank….gallons of it.  🙂

The Best Iced Tea

When our first child was quite young, my husband and I decided that we didn’t want/need him drinking juice, minus special occasions or the tiny paper cup of apple juice in his Sunday School class. We knew there would be a better substitute out there, and we were right – iced tea! We don’t go to the extreme of sugar-free in our house…if we did, I would be in big trouble! I do like to avoid sugar when I can, but that is an everyday battle… For our children, though, we wanted to give them a good start, a fresh palette, and keep sugar out of their diet when we could avoid it. I will never forget – my son was almost 9 months old and only eating fruits, vegetables, and the plainest of plain, no sugar (tastes like cardboard) no name Cheerios. He was sitting in his stroller at my work and someone walked by him and said, “Oh, you would probably love one of these!” and put a sugar-coated, honey-glazed timbit right in his hands. I snatched that thing, shoved it in my mouth and licked the sugar off his hands! I know, I know, he was a first child… but still! When you can avoid it, you may as well avoid it, especially at such a  young age. (And yes, I am sure now that we have more than one child, somewhere in our future one of the older kids will feed the younger child a timbit and we may have no idea! I’m not naive. 🙂 )

So, when it was time with our oldest where we were “allowed” to introduce juice, we chose to avoid it altogether, and instead, introduce him to tea. Hydrating, delicious, no sugar iced tea! I know so many parents in this boat – wanting to keep their kids (or themselves) away from sugar, but not sure the best way to do that. Here is a simple step-by-step on making iced tea for your kids:

1. Start with a good quality, loose leaf FRUIT tea. Fruit teas contain no caffeine, as they are just fruit pieces, and don’t actually contain anyIMG_7191 tea leaves. A very popular fruit tea in our house is Pineapple Orange Cooler – a strong, sweet tasting fruit tea that is perfect for iced tea (though adults will love it hot, too). I love it mixed with Berry Mania as well for an iced tea. With loose leaf tea, the ingredients are simple, but the flavour is strong!

2. Boil some water. For fruit teas, slightly less than boiling works great. If you don’t have a kettle with temperature control, then just boil the water and let it sit for a minute or two. Don’t worry – boiling water won’t destroy the process, you juIMG_7192st don’t need it at a rolling boil for fruit tea.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, get some tea in your pitcher! This pitcher that I use is about 2L, so I would use between 2-3 tbsp of fruit tea, depending on the kind of tea and how strong you want it. Once you have your boiling water, fill about 1/3 of the jug with boiling water and let the tea steep for about 15-20 minutes. Again, you can experiment a bit depending on how strong you want it, but the idea is to give your tea a nice, concentrated steep for a bold flavour.

3. When you have finished steeping the tea, you have two options depending on how quickly you want to enjoy your tea – cold water or ice. With cold water, you will obviously fill the jug with cold water, but then likely need to let it sit on the counter to chill for a little while before being able to put it in the fridge. (Depends on the jug you are using – I use a glass pitcher, so I need to be careful about the temperature of the tea when I place it iIMG_7194n the fridge.) If you want to enjoy your tea right away, fill your jug with ice, and then you should be able to enjoy right away, or at least place it in the fridge immediately to prepare for your lunch BBQ or dinner party!
Notes:

Most important note first – always be aware of the ingredients in your tea and check for any allergies that your kids might have, or take note if there are any foods that you should avoid while on medication, etc. If you are ever in doubt, contact your health care provider with the ingredients.
Kids LOVE Rooibos tea, too! It is a naturally caffeine-free tea that is naturally sweet and comes in lots of dessert-like flavours. My son (who is now 3.5 years old) loves our Mint Chocolate Chip, Creme Carmello, Cherry Pie, Vanilla Cupcake and our Lemon Honeybush herbal tea. For Rooibos tea, it is similar to fruit tea as it doesn’t get bitter if you oversteep (though it does keep getting stronger!). With these teas, you can choose to hot steep and then chill or just steep in cold water overnight.
You can definitely do Black, Green or White tea iced, but these tea leaves can become bitter if hot steeped for too long, so I just throw the leaves in the pitcher with cold water and let it sit in the fridge for the afternoon or overnight, depending oIMG_7193n how strong you want it.
The pitcher I use has a strainer in the lid, so I keep my tea leaves in the pitcher for as long as I drink the iced tea. Usually, it only lasts a day or two in our fridge, but a few days longer won’t hurt it.
If you want to sweeten your iced tea, you could try a number of different things, depending on what you like to use: Stevia, Agave, Honey or Simple Syrup, etc.
For simple syrup, just simmer 3/4 cup sugar and 1 cup water on the stove until it is combined. Let it cool and store in the fridge. I typically use only 1-3 tbsp of simple syrup for 2L of iced tea if I sweeten it for party guests. For extra pizzazz, try adding some Sub-Lime Sugar Shaker or Raspberry Sparkler Sugar Shaker to your simple syrup. Rim your glasses with our flavoured sugar and for an extra special treat!
For the adults – there are  so many ways to mix up your teas! I love Earl Grey de la Creme with Berry Mania, or Strawberry Fields with Mint Julep – the possibilities are endless! Take a look at Steeped Tea’s recipe page for ideas and get creative!

Feel free to email me if you have further questions!

For more ideas on making your own iced tea, take a look at Steeped Tea’s latest blog post. I get all of my inspiration from the fabulous Steeped Tea and their teas!