Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recently we were invited to join the Canadian panel of bloggers involved with Enjoy Life products.  This is a great opportunity, not only because I already use these products all the time, but also a chance for me to spread the love!  Everything of theirs I have tried I’ve loved, and I’m really looking forward to taking part in sampling and sharing new products with our readers.

The first thing that happened was that a box was delivered to my door.  I really, really love getting packages in the mail.  🙂  Upon opening, I found inside two packages of mini chocolate chips, two boxes of Cocoa Loco bars, and two pamphlets from Enjoy Life, outlining their dedication to “free from” foods.  A quote from their web site:  “Free-from living means leading a life without exposure to food allergens that can harm your body. It’s not always easy, but with information, determination and a stock of tasty allergy-friendly foods (like those from Enjoy Life Foods!), free-from living becomes “freedom for living.”  It is so freeing to know I can pick up anything with their label on it and EAT IT.  If you don’t have food sensitivities, I’m happy for you, but if you do, you will completely understand what I mean here.

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Seeing as this blog is done jointly with my lovely daughter, the next step was to take everything over to her place to gleefully show her, and to sample.  And seeing as the kids were there and not napping, we had extra willing little samplers on hand.  Since I had already used the chocolate chips plenty of times, we opened up a box of the Cocoa Loco bars.  As you can see from my grandson’s face, they were a hit!

 

The first recipe I am sharing using some of these products is one I created for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  But before I share the recipe, I have to share an interesting thing  I learned when making these cookies……apparently when you use Sunbutter and baking soda in a baked good, there is some sort of chemical reaction that goes on that turns the inside of your cookie…..green!  Ha, ha.  The first day everything was normal, but the second day I bit into one and it was green.  A little shocking, but nothing that taints the flavour or affects the quality of the cookie.  Upon doing a little research, I found that if you add a little vinegar to your batter, it could combat this reaction, but hey – I said I’d be honest when I started this blog, so yeah…..cookies that were green on the inside.  Think…St. Patrick’s Day.  🙂 If you make these, eat them anyway – you don’t want to waste those delicious chocolate chips!

 

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1/4 cup potato starch

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1 cup gluten free oats

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup margarine

1/3 cup Sunbutter

1 chia egg (1 tbsp. ground chia seeds + 3 tbsp. water)

chocolate chips (no measurement given because…..I usually just grab a handful and throw them in)

Combine your flours, xanthan gum, oats, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

Beat together the brown sugar, margarine, Sunbutter and chia egg.  I just used a wooden spoon and my muscles.  🙂

Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips.  Stir well until nicely blended.  Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Flatten slightly with a fork.  (If you dip your fork into one of the flours you used, it won’t stick to the cookies.)  Bake for about 8 minutes – every oven is a little different, so peek at the bottom of the cookie.  If it’s brown, the cookies are done.

These stayed fresh for days! I was quite impressed.  Sometimes gluten free baking tends to get stale quickly, but not these.

So – go grab yourself some delicious Enjoy Life “free from” chocolate chips and get baking.  As a matter of fact, I have to go get some more myself, because maybe, just maybe, I ate some of the chocolate chips I was sent, and need more for another recipe…..

Have you ever made something that tasted just fine but looked….odd…..like my green cookies?  Post a comment and let me know!

 

 

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The Conversation with a Stranger.

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I have been having this conversation with strangers ever since my son was born four years ago. Sometimes, it feels like it happens every day. Other times, I get a small break and then it comes up again.

Scene – Grocery shopping or doing errands with one or both of my kids. We are having a sweet moment of hugging, kissing, laughing or just being together. 

Stranger: “Enjoy this now while you can! Soon, they will be teenagers and they will have so much attitude!”
(Alternative scripts include, “they will hate you,” and “soon they will be grown up and it will all be over.”)
Me: “Ummm…”
Stranger (talking as she walks away): “Seriously, my daughter is 14 and gives me so much attitude.”
Me: “Well, we will be fine.”

End scene.

How is this encouraging in any way? It’s like they are trying to ruin your special moment because they wish their kids were babies, or perhaps, they are just intending on ruining your thoughts of your future? Seriously. This has to stop! I have been having this conversation over and over again since my first child was weeks old, and I am sick of it.

Even before we were pregnant with our first, I was very prepared to enjoy every stage of that pregnancy, no matter how much sickness, pain or discomfort I felt because I knew that I would just be so happy to be pregnant. Even more so, I knew that so many of my friends would love to have a child and don’t yet and knew my complaints would hurt them. Now, having two kids, I go back to the same attitude time and again as I look at my kids and am so thankful to God for the blessing that they are to us. An attitude of gratitude. Pregnant

 

 

Finding out I was pregnant with our first!

Maybe these random strangers are just having a tough day with their kids – we’ve all been there! I believe, for many, it’s so much deeper than that, though. They are not living with an attitude of gratitude that allows them to see both the struggles and also the great joys of EVERY stage of life. From newborn to toddler and elementary to high school, each child will progress through stages that contain amazing moments of triumph and joy and also hardships, both for them and the parents. However, I truly believe that an underlying joy can be present that helps you get through every stage, thankful for that stage of life.

Sidenote: Every child and every parent is different. There can be extenuating circumstances that brings much more difficult struggles than the ‘norm.’ I am not naive enough to say that life is easy, get through it and just keep smiling. I am very optimistic by nature, but I understand that some seasons of life are extremely difficult.
2nd Sidenote: No, I am not a mom of teenagers yet. I do not have experience in that field, only with preschool and under. I have volunteered with teenagers for 10 years and have spent a lot of time with teenagers, but no, I have not been a mom to a teenager.

As I seriously thought about this conversation today, it did strike me as funny what she was saying trying to compare the two stages – baby/toddler and teenager. Baby/Toddler = easy, fun and enjoyable. Teenager = horrible, difficult and painful. She was trying to do me a service, I guess, and warn me that having teenagers can be hard. Well, complete the picture and tell me how having teenagers can be wonderful, too, because every stage has both positives and difficulties.

Think about it…
Teenagers can be messy and forget to clean up after themselves.
Babies spend hours and hours of their lives ripping containers out of your cupboards on purpose and throwing them on your floor.

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Teenagers can keep you up at night waiting for them to come home before curfew.

 

Babies keep you up…all the time.

 

Teenagers can give you attitude and test their boundaries on obeying you/finding their independence.
Did I ever tell you about when my toddler told me that he prayed to God to help me be less stern with him?! Yeah, that happened. 🙂 Oh, and be sure to ask my hubby about the look he gets from our 16-month-old when he can’t guess what she wants!

Teenagers (boys) can be rude and belch/fart at the dinner table, leave their stinky clothes around the house, etc.
Umm…did you ever read my story about the trip to the library bathroom??! And have you ever had to scoop poop out of a bath tub?

Teenagers have homework that will make your head explode…and oh yes, teaching them how to drive?!
You have to teach babies….EVERYTHING.

I could go on…and on…but I digress. I laughed my way through this list and had a million more examples I could have given. I think babies are hilarious and exhausting, brilliant and complex, adorable and little stinkers all at once. I absolutely love the newborn stage, the baby stage and the preschool stage…even though each stage has major obstacles to overcome or difficulties to work through. Each stage of a child’s life will present challenges, but I am not about to complain my way through it and waste these years. I choose to have an attitude of gratitude and just love my kids, teach my kids, and serve my kids as best as I am able, no matter the stage. Some days rely on a lot of prayer, Matcha and counting to 10. Some days, I just need a break. However, no matter the day, I know this –

“The days are long, but the years are short.”

So, to the next stranger that gives me a “warning” about my future….just don’t. It’s not needed. I know there will be difficulties ahead….I don’t care! I love my kids unconditionally, I thank God for my kids every single day, and I am fully prepared to face the teenager years with my husband with a lot of prayer, relying on God, and drinking my Matcha…just like I have done through the early years.
Oh, and ps. I plan to actually enjoy my kids as teenagers, too. 🙂
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The Finalist.

Hello friends!

I, unintentionally, took quite a hiatus from the blog over the past few months. The fall months are always quite busy with my business, my team was taking off, I was working hard towards a huge promotion, and life just got carried away on me! I am working on my schedule and re-organizing after the holidays and hope to maintain my blog posts alongside my ever-so-faithful blogging companion.

Last week, I was actually in Jamaica with some Steeped Tea companions, so my blogging was delayed yet again! It was the second trip that I have earned through my business, and it was just amazing to get away, relax, read and SLEEP for a few days!

While I was in Jamaica, I received notice that I was selected as a finalist for the 2016 Mompreneur Award of Merit. I am completely floored by the announcement and just so thrilled to be a part of the process. I have been meeting and connecting with more entrepreneurs and businesswoman, and have even received some local press.
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I cannot believe where this business is taking me! Costa Rica…Jamaica…becoming an Executive Director…a finalist for a Mompreneur award… This is all so far beyond what I imagined when I became an entrepreneur! I joined Steeped Tea with the mindset of making a little extra for our family every month, and it has become an incredible full-time job over these past three and a half years.

Incentive trips are an incredible opportunity when working as an independent consultant for Steeped Tea. Being able to spend a week with our founders, top leaders and so many ‘tea friends,’ is invigorating and, well, just so much fun!
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Underwater cameras are a must, and I took full advantage of the opportunity to swim, play and drink (iced) tea. Drinking Matcha underwater is even better than on land!
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One of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is bringing others alongside you! It was an absolute pleasure to have two of my team members in Jamaica with me. ❤ I am looking forward to our trip to Maui next January and having an even bigger crew with us.

Enough reminiscing about beautiful Jamaica… I have an incredibly detailed essay that I am off to work on for the Mompreneur award. I am actually really looking forward to writing it as a way to reflect on my business, look forward to things ahead, and praise God for everything He has done in our lives since I became an entrepreneur on September 17th, 2012.

Are you an entrepreneur? I would love to hear from you! Send me an email or look me up online.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Winter has arrived in Southern Ontario.  We avoided the white stuff until just recently, but now we are being held in the grip of sub zero temperatures, blowing winds and snow.  Personally, I don’t have much use for winter, and especially the month of January.  There’s not much to look forward to in January, and to top that off, it’s a long, 31 day month.  One thing that makes this month more manageable for me is soup…..good, homemade soup.  I almost feel bad for my piano students when they come in on a soup making day.  Inevitably there is the question, “So, what are you making for supper?” or the statement, “Well, that smells good.” or the flat out request, “I could really use something to eat.”  After they’ve been advised that they are here for a piano lesson, not supper, we get down to work.  🙂

So….this week I tried a new recipe for some chicken and wild rice soup.  It’s yummy and filling, and makes enough for leftovers the next night!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

30 ounces of chicken broth (homemade or store bought)

2 cups water

1/2 cup finely chopped green onion

1/2 cup uncooked wild rice

8 slices bacon

1/2 cup margarine

3/4 cup white rice flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1 can coconut milk

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced

2 tbsp. apple juice or grape juice

In a large pot, combine chicken broth, water, green onions and rice.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender.  This will take at least 25 minutes.  While this is happening, cook the bacon until crisp.  Cool, pat the extra grease off and crumble.  In another pan, melt the margarine, and stir in the flour and seasonings.  Cook, stirring, until smooth and bubbly.  Pour in the coconut milk and stir until smooth and thickened.  I used a whisk to make sure there were no lumps.  Combine this with the rice mixture (making sure your rice is tender first), and then stir in the bacon, chicken, and juice.

You may want to adjust the seasoning according to your personal preference, but I would suggest not adding more salt until you stir in the bacon.  The bacon will add another salty bite to the soup.

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*This soup is thick, and tends to thicken a little more upon sitting, since the rice expands when it’s cooked and sitting in liquid.  If you find it too thick, add a little more chicken broth.*

There you go!  My January gift to you – warm, comforting soup for a cold day.

 

Brownies!

Before I start the “actual” post, I am pleased to announce that we have been invited to join the panel of Canadian bloggers involved with Enjoy Life foods!  We will be featuring two of their products in some upcoming posts, and will be given the opportunity to spotlight new products as they become available to the Canadian market.  We are very excited about this opportunity.

Today’s brownie recipe borrows heavily from the one in the Oh She Glows Cookbook.  I did have to make some changes to accommodate my food sensitivities, however.  This cookbook is great!  It’s vegan, but sometimes I use a vegan recipe and add meat.  Ha, ha.  It kind of defeats the purpose of a vegan cookbook, but being vegan, it cuts out dairy and eggs, so that’s a helpful start.

One of the biggest changes I made to this recipe was  to switch out the ground almonds.  I was determined to  make and eat a decent brownie!  What I came up with was…..wait for it…..ground sunflower seeds!  Granted, they can be hard to find without warnings of “may contain all allergens known to mankind”, but I found some, and they work really well.  The brownies are moist and chewy, and just….good.  I may even tack on my icing recipe to the bottom of this post, so yours can be just as tasty as mine are.

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Brownies

4 tsp. ground flax

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. brown rice flour

2 tbsp. arrowroot powder

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. margarine

1 cup white sugar (I used organic)

1/4 cup non dairy beverage (I used flax beverage)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk the flax together with 3 tbsp. water and set aside.

Grind the sunflower seeds into a meal.  I am blessed to have a BlendTec, and this does a fantastic job of making them the right texture.

Whisk together the ground sunflower seeds, brown rice flour, arrowroot, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.

Melt 1/2 cup of chocolate chips together with the margarine.  When almost all the chocolate chips are melted, remove from heat and stir until smooth.  Stir into this the flax mixture, sugar, non dairy beverage and vanilla.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture, and stir well until combined.  Add in the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into a greased 8 x 8 pan.  Sometimes I grease and line it with parchment paper.  This time I forgot the parchment paper, and they came out of the pan just fine.  So I guess….your choice on whether you use it or not.  The batter will be quite thick, so pat down until smooth and spread to all corners of the pan.

Bake for 28-34 minutes.  Cool COMPLETELY before cutting.  This is very important if you don’t want to end up with brownie crumbs instead of squares.

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BONUS:  Chocolate Icing

This could not be easier, but I know a lot of people who say they can’t make icing.  And I say – yes you can!

3 tbsp. margarine

1/2 tsp. vanilla

a few grains of salt (less than 1/8 tsp.)

2 cups icing sugar

3 tbsp. cocoa powder.

2-2 1/2 tbsp. non dairy beverage

Cream together the margarine, vanilla and salt.  Add in the icing sugar, and gradually add in the non dairy beverage.  Most likely you won’t need the whole amount.  Start small, and don’t get into the endless cycle of “oops – too much icing sugar, add more milk…………..oops – too much milk, add more icing sugar”.  That will ruin your icing.

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Resolutions and Reflections

The post today will be taking a question and answer format, and be comprised of thoughts from both Kate and Sandy.  It’s time we heard from Kate again anyway, isn’t it?  Read on, and tell us what you would have said in answer to some of the questions!

What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

(Kate) 2015 was an incredible year for my business. I never knew that being an entrepreneur could be this rewarding and fun! I never set out to build my own business. I always wanted to be a stay at home mom….I never knew about this exciting world of a stay/work at home mom! In 2015, I saw my business build enough so that I could finish maternity leave and not go back to my day job. I earned a trip to Jamaica (which I am on right now!!) while on maternity leave, which is something that still amazes me. I also hit one of my biggest goals for my business in 2015, and that was getting promoted to Executive Director. Being 1 of 11 Executive Directors (and the youngest one) with Steeped Tea is just incredible and I am so thankful every day for my job.

(Sandy)  This is a tough one.  2015 was a year that rolled along without any major highs or lows, for the most part.  In 2015 I did a lot of introspection and self-analyzing, and through this process I was able to conquer a life-long habit of worry, so I suppose that should be a major high for me!  In that journey I made a couple of new, wonderful friends, and I’m sure they would appreciate being noted as a high of my year.  You know who you are.

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

(Kate) We have been transitioning as a family a lot over the past few years, mainly in the way of finances and our schedule. At the end of 2015, we saw my hubby go back to work after being off with a back injury for two and a half years. We are now in a place of trying to get our finances back on track and start tackling debt after a few years of financial turmoil. Debt is no joke. It is not fun, it’s not easy to deal with, and it can be really draining. We also have been having to adjust our schedule frequently as a family with one car and my hubby’s changing shifts, preschool for our son, my tea parties and business, volunteering, etc. There is a lot more that could be said to this story, but I will leave it. 2015 was the start of getting things back on track, and I am looking forward to how 2016 progresses these things!

(Sandy) Going back to my answer to question one – hand in hand with freeing myself of worry and taking a good, hard look at myself, I found I needed to make a lot of decisions regarding how I allocate my time, for instance, splitting time between family, volunteer work, and actual work, and deciding on the value each of those things has in my life.   Sitting down with my husband and crunching numbers to see if the work side of things could be decreased to allow me to follow my passions (which include this blog!) was a valuable exercise. I am a creature of habit and change, even good change, is hard for me, so this was a challenging exercise, and it will be even harder to jump in with both feet and implement the changes we decided on.

In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

(Kate) Believe it or not, some of my growth came through watching “Inside Out” with my hubby. We watched that movie and were both just wrecked. Haha I think that movie just reiterated for me, after years of trying to push through chaos, job changes/losses, and financial bumps in the road, that it’s really hard to be happy all the time. Besides that, I mean BING BONG…seriously Inside Out, that was brutal!!

(Sandy) Releasing worry has allowed me to calm down inside. I highly recommend it!  I think, too, that I have grown emotionally in becoming a kinder, more empathetic person, and a better listener.

In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

(Kate) Quite honestly, I feel like I am still finding my stride (again) with maintaining a good routine of devotions and that was something that was a struggle in 2015. I love routine, and adapting to change is not one of my strengths.  As a mom, I have found this weakness of mine especially difficult. You start to find a stride and a “new normal” and then your child gets a little older, learns to crawl or walk or talk and then everything changes again. You start to find a new normal and then you start potty training. You start to find a new normal and then your husband’s shift changes and your child’s nap schedule changes… I don’t like the way that my spiritual routine was in 2015. I did, however, finally have the time to attend the women’s bible study, being on maternity leave and having a car for a while, and through that have found some wonderful friends to grow with and with whom I can talk honestly. 2015 was a year of growing in my faith. God has continually been showing us that He will provide, and our faith is strong through all the ups and downs of 2015.

(Sandy) I grew spiritually in 2015 in a few different ways. First off, I have realized the value and importance of being quiet and listening for God. Starting my day with this makes a huge difference in how the day goes. I am at the point in my life where, once my husband leaves for work, it’s just me and the dog at home, so this is an easy habit for me to develop. I have also stepped into a leadership/mentorship role in one of the programs we run at our church, and this has been a focus of my past year. And finally, I have become more comfortable with the idea that my idea of having “enough” may not be God’s idea of enough, and that He may be asking me to take a step back from work, and a step further into volunteering. This would be a leap of faith, because we aren’t wealthy people, but if this is what God wants, He will provide!

What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

(Kate) This one is funny, but…not making lists! I have too much on the go and I can’t do it all. The days when I write down my lists or goals, I am more productive, efficient and organized. Otherwise, I find a million ways to waste time. Starting off 2016, I want to (I need to!) get back to one of my loves…my lists!

(Sandy) Kate is so her mother’s daughter – I do love me some good lists! There is almost always at least one list on my counter. Grocery list, to do list, long term goal list…..the list goes on! Ha, ha. As far as time wasters go, the biggest culprit is television. It is way too easy for me to get sucked into one program, and then roll into the next, and the next…… I found towards the end of the year, through the Christmas season, I was most happy when I had gentle music on while I baked, read, did a puzzle, did housework, etc. I need to remember that feeling as I head forward and work towards less visual distraction.

Create a phrase or statement that describes 2015 for you.

(Kate) In a word? 2015 was challenging. However, I feel like I can use this adage to sum up the efforts of our 2015 – “Life is like a cup of tea…it’s all in how you make it!” I think God has shown us much grace as we’ve fumbled through a few years of uncertainty and has really grown us into more faithful, trusting, patient people. As I begin 2016, my word for the year (something trendy that seems to be catching on) is “Revive.” No more just getting by. It’s time to revive our finances and pay off some debt. It’s time to revive my devotion and find a better personal schedule. Time to revive my love of physical activity. Time to revive my organization within my home, schedule and business.

I am looking forward to good things in 2016 and I say…bring it on!

(Sandy) Hmmmm. I think perhaps 2015 was “confusing”. I tried to come to terms with different things like worry, distraction, fear, work, and family. However, making a decision to deal with things like this and being able to do it are two very different things. Some things, like worry, distraction, and fear are all on me, and I need to, with God’s help, work on and correct them. That is not easy, but at least I am the only one involved. Things like work and family are definitely more involved, since they involve household finances, possible extra burden on my husband, and major life changes, and in the case of family, a struggle with the desire to still hold my children as tightly as I did when they were younger vs. allowing them to fly on their own and be independent young married couples. For a person who had their greatest fulfillment being a mom, that’s tough!

For 2016 my word will be….faith. Faith that decisions I come to will be the right ones, faith that I raised my children well and that they can now, in turn, create their own loving, Godly homes, and faith that if I continue to be still and listen, God will show up in amazing ways and guide my life!

As Kate said …….bring it on!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’m a day late posting!  This troubles my obsessive soul.  Ha, ha.  I will forgive myself since we are just out of the Christmas holiday season, and I’m at the end of my first week back at teaching piano.

Anyway, as of late I’ve been eating protein bars for breakfast.  There is only one brand that I found that is edible for me, given my dietary restrictions.  However, this brand is fairly pricey, and I just didn’t want to spend that money anymore –  New Year’s resolution to tighten the belt and all……   Having formed the habit of an easy-to-grab breakfast, I needed to figure out something else to eat.  I’m not really a big breakfast eater, so when I came up with these muffins, they fit the bill.  They are small-ish in size, but filling.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 cup margarine (or butter)

1 cup brown sugar

1 chia egg (1 tbsp. ground chia seeds + 3 tbsp. water)

1/2 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened organic)

1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks (I used Enjoy Life)

1 mashed banana

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. xanthan gum

1 cup non dairy beverage, soured with 1 tbsp. lemon juice (I used Flax beverage )

2 cups gluten free flour (I used 1 1/4 cup white rice flour, 1/2 cup potato starch, and 1/4 cup tapioca starch)

Cream together margarine, sugar, and chia egg.  Add in the coconut, chocolate chips, baking powder, and banana. Add in the liquid and flour, stirring to combine.  Put in greased muffin tins and bake at 350*F for 30 minutes.  Makes 12 muffins.

 

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Yum.