Better than the Box – Chocolate Pudding

This post was originally published in 2009.  Better Than the Box Chocolate Pudding One of my main goals on this blog is to prove to anyone who doesn’t believe me that cooking healthy foods from scratch is neither difficult nor time-consuming. Too many people think that cooking is either a great mystery they could never solve, or so time-consuming they would always be stuck in the kitchen. Instead, they rely on boxes (or bags or jars, or packages, you get the idea) that are quick and easy, but expensive and chock-full of unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients.

There’s a better way!

You don’t have to be a gourmet and spend hours over your creations in order to serve healthy delicious meals to your family. So throw away the box and make something from scratch for a change. If I can do it, you can do it!

For example, chocolate pudding. For a long time, I never even ate pudding because I didn’t want to use the mix found in a box, but I thought that home-made pudding was too time-consuming and difficult. Then my diet was forcibly changed because of my son’s allergies: there were so many foods I couldn’t eat, that I began to think outside the box (literally!) for foods that I could eat. I thought I had kissed chocolate good-bye for a while, until I found an allergen-free recipe for chocolate pudding. And I realized that it was so quick and easy, I could make it any time I needed a chocolate fix.

Once I discovered that, I branched out and made all kinds of pudding: butterscotch, vanilla, coconut, etc. I used them to make trifles and parfaits for desserts to serve to guests. And the best part was, it was every bit as easy as using a box!

But not as QUICK, you say. Almost as quick, I say. It took me approximately 10 minutes, start to finish. Anybody can find 10 minutes in their day to fix themselves a chocolate treat!

I thought home-made pudding was hard, but it’s actually quite EASY. What makes it difficult is using an egg, because the egg(s) has to be tempered, or gradually heated so that it doesn’t cook before it’s thoroughly mixed in. That problem is easily avoided by not using an egg! You’ll find most pudding recipes require an egg, but as I discovered, vegans and food-allergic folks know that pudding without an egg is every bit as good. An egg adds richness to pudding. So if you want your pudding a little richer, go ahead and fuss with the egg. But if you just want some pudding, forget the egg. You won’t miss it!

It’s CHEAPer than buying the box. I bet you don’t believe me because those boxes are pretty cheap. Aside from the milk (which is not included in the box anyway), the ingredients in this chocolate pudding cost less than $0.40, even if you don’t buy them on sale.

It may not be HEALTHY, but it’s certainly healthier than what’s in that box. Have you ever looked at the ingredients? Sugar, modified food starch, cocoa, disodium phosphate, natural & artificial flavors, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, monoglyceride, diglycerides, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Artificial Colors, citric acid, BHA. Yum. I don’t even know why they need all those food colorings, because, as Matthew McConaughey says in “The Wedding Planner”, “Chocolate’s already brown.”

Have I convinced you yet?



Once it’s reached the right consistency, remove from the heat and add the 100% chocolate bar and vanilla. At this point, you can get creative and try adding different things. For example, chocolate chips instead of the chocolate bar. Or different flavorings instead of vanilla. I have also used a mixture of coffee and milk to make a mocha pudding. Mmmm, that was yummy.

Pour the pudding into serving dishes and place in refrigerator to cool. If you plan on serving to guests, you may want to consider placing some plastic wrap tightly on the surface of the pudding while it cools to prevent a skin from forming. I don’t bother when it’s just for myself, or if I’m going to stir it up and use it in something else. Garnish as desired:

Better Than the Box Chocolate Pudding Sharing at Try a New Recipe Tuesday

 

Spelt Vanilla Cake

A delicious vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #spelt #wholegrain #cake I always feel obligated to preface every cake post with a disclaimer that goes something like this: I stink at cake baking.

Soooo if you’re a cake-baking expert, this post is not for you. However, if you’re a cake-baking stinker like me, keep reading!

I think my biggest problem with cake-baking is that I attempt to make a delicious, light, fluffy, high-rising cake with ingredients like whole-grain flour and unrefined sugars. I always tell myself that if I were baking with white flour and white sugar that – Certainement! – my cakes would be absolute perfection.

Since I don’t bake with white flour and sugar, the world will never know. Probably best to leave it that way. 

A delicious but healthy indulgence - a vanilla cake made with spelt flour and unrefined sugar. #cake #wholegrain #speltI bumble along the best I can, though, with freshly grained spelt flour and coconut sugar, and I have to say that this most recent cake experiment was overall a success. The resulting cake seemed heavy but had a nice light crumb, a moist texture, and perfect vanilla flavor. I made two cakes – one topped with caramel frosting, and one filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon frosting. Everybody said they were good, but I wasn’t completely pleased with the frosting recipes, so I won’t be posting those.

However, the cake is definitely a recipe worth sharing, especially since whole-grain spelt cake recipes are currently a rare commodity in this world. I made it in my WonderMix with the cookie beaters on low (speed 1). Whipped it up in no time!

If you’re looking for a delicious but reasonably nutritious (wouldn’t exactly call it healthy, but it’s not that much of an indulgence, either) cake for your next celebration, this one’s it! It pairs nicely with just about any frosting – I like to pop the layers in the freezer before spreading the icing just to limit the crumbs getting involved.

a healthy indulgence - whole grain spelt cake with unrefined sugars. #spelt #wholegrain #cake Recipe: Spelt Vanilla Cake

Summary: a delicious vanilla layer cake made with spelt flour

Kumquat Bars

2015's answer to Lemon Bars. Sweet and tart, creamy filling, crumbly crust. Lemon bars are SO last century. Join me in the twenty-first century (2015 people!) with a delicious twist on the old classic that takes it to new heights… a simple switch of key ingredients and you have an impressively exotic dessert that tastes just as good as (better?) than the original.

I’m talking kumquats. “Say wha?” I hear you mutter. Yep, kumquats! They look like baby oranges but taste like grumpy grandpa lemons. In other words, adorably cute but ferociously sour. Some people like to pop the little cuties right in their mouth, but I can’t personally even give a little lick without puckering up all over like I just drank lemon juice out of the bottle.

A delicious 21st-century version of the classic Lemon Bar.

However! Like their yellow and green counterparts, kumquats pair nicely with a bit of sweetener to create deliciously sweet-tart desserts, no pucker involved.

I whipped these bars up on a whim the other day, basically just switching out the lemon juice in a lemon bar recipe with kumquat puree, resulting in an orange-colored version of the favorite lemon bars. I was quite pleased to have my brand-new WonderMix at my disposal for the creation of the recipe, because its blender attachment made whipping up the puree and adding it to the filling mixture a total breeze. I love having appliances that do more than one job… and consequently take up less real estate on my countertop, which is quite valuable these days!

Blend and Mix with one machine!

Want to win one of these beauties? Check out our giveaway coming this Friday – May 8!

As a matter of fact, I have been experimenting quite a bit with this new mixer, and am looking forward to sharing more of my recipe creations with you in the very near future. This lovely little machine makes quick work of just about any dough or batter, giving me more time to try my favorite sort of experiment… the kitchen kind!

Wondermix

Enter to win your very own Wondermix this Friday, May 8!

Win your very own WonderMix! Enter the giveaway here!

Deliciously beautiful kumquat bars - a new take on the old-fashioned lemon bars.

Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Donuts

Old Fashioned Pumpkin Donuts You know that super simple, super quick “donut” recipe that’s been going around for a while? The one where you open a can of biscuits, poke a hole in the middle, then fry it up and call it a donut?

Well, this is kind of like that. Except we don’t do canned biscuits around here, so the biscuit dough is fresh from scratch. (SO easy!) Oh  yes, and it’s flavored with pumpkin and pumpkin spices so it’s perfect for fall weather. 

Think you like the sound of that? (I know I do!) Then head on over to Baking Whole Grains to get the recipe for my Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Donuts

Honey Fondant: The Healthiest Easy Fondant Recipe You’ll Find Anywhere

I love making fun birthday cakes for The Boys – I actually really look forward to it from one birthday to the next! The problem is trying to balance cost, nutrition, and simplicity – those three things don’t always meet together and play nicely when it comes to cakes and decorative frostings! Fondant, in particular, seems to be a matter of expense, difficulty, and chemical-laden ingredients, yet it can turn out some of the cutest and most gorgeously decorated cakes.

However, for my Certain Little Someone’s fifth – yes, fifth! – birthday cake, I happened upon an amazing recipe for fondant that contained absolutely no chemical or processed ingredients. What’s more, all the ingredients were something I had in my cupboard already, and it was just as easy – or seemed to be – as any other fondant recipe out there.

A Healthy Fondant Recipe that’s Easy?

Here’s how I stumbled across this gem of a recipe:

  • My Certain Little Someone wanted Mario cupcakes for his birthday (which he later switched to Angry Birds). When I was browsing Pinterest for ideas, most of the ones he liked involved fondant, which I had never used before.
  • I took a gander at the ingredient list on the label of store-bought fondant. My eyebrows rose so high they practically rocketed off my forehead, and I hastily put the container back on the shelf and said, “No way!”. 
  • I found a healthy-ish recipe for marshmallow fondant, but when I priced the ingredients…. well, once again my eyebrows got a little too high and I reluctantly admitted that was not do-able. Those “healthy” marshmallows cost $4 a bag, and you need two for the recipe! Not to mention the cost of the healthier sugar/powdered sugar.
  • I started researching alternative fondant recipes – my goodness, there are a lot of different ways to make fondant! Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. There was the original true recipe for fondant, which involved candy thermometers and boiling sugar water, which I decided against (way too complicated, plus I don’t have a candy thermometer). There were also a lot of recipes that called for strange ingredients I don’t keep on hand and didn’t really want to invest in anyway.
  • Then there were a whole variety of powdered-sugar based recipes, most of which involved corn syrup. I wondered if honey could replace the corn syrup (because that’s what I usually sub when corn syrup is called for in a recipe and it usually works well), but I didn’t want to risk it because I didn’t have the time to deal with it. I searched specifically for “honey fondant” wondering if someone else had tried it and if it worked.
  • Well, whaddya know?! I found a whole bunch of recipes for something that beekeepers feed their bees during the winter (no, thank you, I don’t have any bees) instead of more fondant frosting recipes… but there was ONE little precious gem of a recipe buried in all of that honey-bee stuff: Honey Fondant

I made it pretty much as written, except that I had to add significantly more powdered sugar than I was expecting. Like, I mean, significantly, she says with significance. I honestly don’t know how much powdered sugar ended up in this batch of fondant, but let me tell you it is way more than I have ever put in any one recipe any other time in my life.

So I decided that when it comes to fondant, your choice pretty much boils down to this: 

chemicals

or

sugar. 

Lots and lots  of sugar.

I’m glad I want with the sugar option because at least it’s something your body recognizes and knows what to do with. The chemicals are just scary, frankly – at least sugar is a known danger!

I haven’t made any other kind of fondant so I have nothing with which to compare it, but this seemed to be just as simple as any of the other recipes out there, and definitely simpler than the boiling sugar version. As long as you understand you might have to use a metric ton of powdered sugar, you’ll be OK.


A few ingredient notes:

  • The original recipe called for margarine – I would have used butter except that my Certain Little Someone is allergic to it. I considered using palm shortening but I wasn’t sure if that was a good sub or not (probably would be fine), so I opted to stick with the original recipe and use my Certain Little Someone’s “butter”, which is actually a coconut-based all-natural butter-like spread. I think either butter or palm shortening or some other similar margarine would work. Just don’t use the nasty chemical margarine.
  • The next time I make this, I’ll probably try starting with less liquid, maybe even half as much as is indicated here.
  • I made my own powdered sugar by processing raw sugar in my Vitamix. I wanted it to be pretty fine, or I would have gone with powdered sucanat or even coconut sugar. Either of those would probably work, but with the quantity used, it would get expensive fast.
  • The original recipe called for 800g of powdered sugar, which is just under 2 lbs. I’d definitely consider that a starting point! You’ll probably use more like 4 pounds, maybe even more, unless you adjust the liquid (if you do adjust the liquid, let me know how that goes!).

Allergen-Free S’Mores Stars

This post originally appeared on my food allergy blog in 2011.  S'Mores Stars

These babies are a lot of work, but totally worth it for a spectacular Fourth of July celebration! Everything is made from scratch, except the chocolate, which is just melted chocolate chips. If you want to make these, plan on making the marshmallows first (giving them adequate time to set), then the graham cracker stars, and then assembling them.

I found the marshmallow recipe on Food.com, and made it pretty much as it described. I like that it’s also corn-free, which I think is healthier, and also great for those with corn allergies/sensitivities.

Corn-Free Marshmallows

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 2 cups sugar (I used raw)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • powdered sugar or colored blue sugar
  1. Pour 1/2 cup water in a small bowl, and sprinkle with gelatin. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, stir together sugar and remaining 1/2 cup water. Cook over medium heat until dissolved, stirring constantly. When sugar is dissolved, add gelatin and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Remove from the heat, and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer; allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Stir in salt and vanilla, then beat on high speed with the whisk attachment until fluffy and doubled in volume, about 10 minutes or so.
  4. Sprinkle sifted powdered sugar over the bottom of a 9×13 pan and pour marshmallow mixer into it, smoothing the top. Allow to set until you can touch the surface with your finger and it doesn’t stick.
  5. Using a greased spatula to help release it from the pan, turn marshmallow onto a surface sprinkled with either more sifted powdered sugar or colored blue (or red) sugar. Cut out stars with a metal star-shaped cookie cutter, dipping it into a bowl of hot water in between each cut. Roll each star in your sugar of choice until all surfaces are covered.

 

Blue S'Mores Stars For the graham cracker stars, I simply used my allergen-free graham cracker recipe and rolled and cut it into star shapes instead of squares. If you don’t need an allergen-free recipe, try this graham cracker recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

 

Allergen-Free Graham Crackers

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups sorghum flour mix
  • 1/2 cup turbinado (raw) sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 7 TBSP coconut oil
  • 3 TBSP cold water
  • 3 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add coconut oil and blend with pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir until dough can be manipulated into a soft ball, adding cold water 1 TBSP at a time if necessary.
  3. Cover dough and refrigerate one hour.
  4. Roll out half of the dough into a large rectangle between two plastic zippered bags (Rip the bags down the sides to form long sheets of plastic. This is sturdier than wax paper or plastic wrap). Leave it pretty thick, around 1/4″ or so. Peel off the top bag, and use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out stars. Continue until dough is gone.
  5. Place the stars on lightly greased cooking sheets and bake in a 325F oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the pan to cool on a wire rack.

 

S'Mores Stars Chocolate

1/2 cup safe chocolate chips

Melt the chocolate chips at in the microwave at 50% or 60% power, stirring every 15 or 20 seconds. Use immediately.

To Assemble:

Use a knife to spread a small amount (about 1 tsp or less) onto the surface of a graham cracker star. Immediately top with a marshmallow. Leave as is, or spread chocolate on another graham cracker star and place it on top of the marshmallow to form a complete sandwich. Allow to cool until the chocolate is set.

Healthy Frozen Treats {Raising Healthy Families}

Welcome Back to the Raising Healthy Family Series! In this final installment,
Kelly at The Nourishing Home is sharing a healthy way to beat the heat of summer without compromising good nutrition.

Making your own homemade ice pops and frozen treats is so easy and it’s fun too! And best of all, you’ll feel good knowing that your
family is enjoying a healthy boost of wholesome nutrients in each and every yummy bite!

So be sure to join Kelly at The Nourishing Home as she helps us celebrate summer
with some delicious and nutritious real food frozen treats certain to bring a smile to your kids faces, while keeping the ice cream man at bay!

Super Fast and Simple Football Cake

I think it’s kinda funny that I am writing a Super Bowl post, because I have absolutely no interest in the Super Bowl. Not even this year, when the local team actually has a shot at the big game. The honest to goodness truth is that I could care less about football. 

In fact, this cake has nothing to do with the Super Bowl. I actually made it for Tiger Cub’s second birthday a couple weeks ago, and am just now getting around to posting it, but I figured that was pretty good timing with the Super Bowl only a few weeks away. Around here, football fever is reaching an all-time high as the local fans get their hopes up, so it seems very fitting all around.

If, like me, the Super Bowl is not your thing, then perhaps you could find another use for this fun and simple cake. Maybe a child’s birthday? Father’s day? Little boy baby shower? Whatever the case, football is a fun theme and a super easy cake to make. 

Trust me. I don’t do hard cakes. This is pretty much as easy as they come.

The Cake

My standard birthday cake recipe hitherto has been one variation or another of the Wacky Cake because it doesn’t require eggs or butter. Up until recently, The Boys were allergic to those things, so I avoided them. My favorite version is the Mocha Wacky Cake - just double the baking time for this cake. If you prefer not to have a mocha flavor, just use water instead of the coffee.

But really, you can use whatever chocolate cake recipe you want. The more important thing is how you bake it.

To make the football shape:

  • Bake your cake recipe in 2 round pans.
  • When the cakes are removed from the pans and completely cooled, cut a 1″ wide strip out of the middle of each layer so that you have 4 half circles.
  • Slide two half circles together until they meet to form the bottom layer.
  • Frost the bottom layer liberally, then top with the remaining two half circles.
  • Voila! You have just made a football-shaped cake!

Told ya it was easy.

The Frosting

The frosting is also easy because you do not have to fool with food coloring. Because, as Matthew McConaughey said so eloquently in The Wedding Planner, “Chocolate’s already brown.”  Simply add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the frosting recipe found here (or use your own favorite chocolate frosting) after you reserve about 1/4 cup of frosting for the laces. 

Cover the cake in a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Allow it to set until it’s firm to the touch. Then fill a decorator’s bag with your frosting, fitted with a star tip. If you’ve never piped stars before, here’s a video I found that illustrates the process:

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

Pipe stars to cover the top of the cake. If you’re not into stars (although I think they give a nice professional finished look to the cake), just swirl the frosting on with a knife. You can frost the sides, too, if you want. I only didn’t because I was running out of time, but next time I probably would.

Once the football is covered with chocolate frosting, take the reserved plain frosting and place it in a decorator’s bag with the round tip. Pipe the lacing onto the top of the football. 

The Cake Balls

Now you know I can’t bear for any food to go to waste. Remember those strips of cake cut out of the middle of the circles?  There was no way I was going to throw away that deliciousness. Nope! I turned it into cake balls.

You can do the same: all you need is a little bit extra frosting and some chocolate chips to melt. Here’s the process.

  • Simply crumble the strips of cake into a bowl, then stir in frosting until you have a mixture that can be formed into balls. (You should get about a dozen.)
  • Place the balls on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm.
  • Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1 TBSP of palm shortening (or other oil) over low heat until smooth.
  • Dip the frozen balls into the melted chocolate and then place on a sheet of wax paper to set.

If I’d had time, I would have experimented with piping helmet details onto the balls with white chocolate or frosting to turn them into little mini football helmets, but I ran out of time. If you give that a try, let me know! And take a picture so I can see. I think it would be super cute!

So there you have it… a super simple football cake for the Super Bowl, or your next birthday party. Fun and easy – I love it!

How do you feel about the Super Bowl?

A Simple Christmas Tip #23 – Make No-Bake Cookies

If you want more information, click here or on the graphic itself to take you to a full-length post on the topic. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Come back tomorrow for another quick tip to help you simplify your Christmas by focusing less on spending and more on celebrating.

Buy Healthy Snacks to Go eBook Recipes Online

A Simple Christmas Tip #15 – Don’t Make Too Many Cookies

If you want more information, click here or on the graphic itself to take you to a full-length post on the topic. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Come back tomorrow for another quick tip to help you simplify your Christmas by focusing less on spending and more on celebrating.