Friday, December 19, 2014

Natural Sugar Alternatives

Refined processed sugar is Bad! It is hard on your body, it's hard on the body to process and break down. Any type of sugar will spike the insulin and set the brain waves going crazy. Keeping your blood sugar stabilized all day is an important part of keeping a healthy body. Most people are constantly spiking the blood sugar and it's going up an down all day.
You definitely want to stay away from white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugars and also chemically processed types of additives and sugars like High Fructose Corn Syrup....yikes! Bad, bad, bad...and it's in A LOT of packaged foods. Also Saccharin (Sweet n low), Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet), Sucralose (Splenda) are very bad fake forms of sugar. They only do harmful things to the body. Read food labels and do not consume anything that has this in it!

Sugar has no nutritional value...and it's addicting. The more you have the more you want! Your body is saying "I'm not getting anything from this food....I need something...give me more!" And so you have more, more, more. It requires more effort to digest and breakdown because it lacks vitamins, minerals and fiber. The body depletes it's owns stores of minerals and enzymes to absorb it properly, causing deficiencies. Studies have shown that sugar is more addicting than drugs. It's scary stuff!!

My body has always had a hard time processing sugar from a young age. My Halloween candy would sit in my room for months. I knew what it would do to me and it was not appealing. But, as we have any amounts of sugar our bodies begin to crave it, no matter how horrible you might feel. Pretty soon it becomes very addicting and it's hard to give up. I have hypoglycemia issues and digestion issues, sugar does bad things to me. After months of no sugar I am now able to have some Natural forms of sugar but only in very small amounts. If I bake healthy treats I can only have 1, maybe 2....it takes a lot of self control and can be very difficult becaue that 1st taste of sugar is very hard to control not going for a second taste.

Natural Alternatives to sugar that are unrefined and unprocessed:

Raw Honey- also has some antioxidants and health benenfits. Raw, unproccessed, unfiltered honey is best. Buy it local if possible. It's full of vitamins and minearls.

Pure Maple syrup or maple sugar- maple syrup and granulated maple sugar are made from the sap that comes from maple trees. The granulated form works great as a cup for cup replacement for white sugar and the flavor won't over power a recipe.

Coconut palm sugar- made from the sap of the coconut tree. The taste is similar to brown sugar with a hint of molasses. Sometimes just called coconut sugar or palm sugar. Palm sugar is made from the sap of various palm trees. Use this in recipes that you want to give a warm brown sugar flavor. coconut sugar does not add as much moisture as white sugar; so you may need to add a little extra liquid to balance your recipes for baked goods.

Use these natural forms of sugar in baking, added to smoothies, etc.

Stevia and Xylitol are ok, but not the greatist, still more processed than more natural forms. Use more sparingly than the other natural forms.

Even natural forms of sugar should be used in moderation. Any form of sugar will still spike your insulin and any sugar isn't good in large amounts and like I said...the more you have the more your body will crave it over and over and over!!  The best thing would be to not have any added sugars at all if you cannot control yourself. But, processed, refined sugars especially should not be used EVER! The less sugar you have Fruit and food will start to become sweeter, your taste buds will change and your body will thank you!! Giving up sugar alone will do amazing things for your health. Added sugars (among many other harmful things) are in most processed and packaged foods....read your labels and start eating more whole food sources....Just eat real food! :)





Thursday, December 18, 2014

Simple and Creative Christmas Gift ideas {FREE printable tags}

Friends, Neighbors, Teachers, Coaches, Grandma's, Grandpa's, visiting teachers....there are so many gifts to give for the Holidays. Giving feels so great! But, sometimes coming up with simple and cute ideas that don't break the bank can be difficult.  Here is a round up of some of my ideas that we will be giving this year......

Tin or fun Holiday container filled with Hershey's hugs and kisses. Use tissue paper or crinkle paper as a filler then add a variety of the Hershey's. 

Fill a cute holiday bag with kisses and chapstick or lip gloss!! Fun friend gift idea! Use the same Hugs and Kisses tag from above or say "Merry Kiss-mas!" :)

or for Boys you could fill a Christmas treat bag with any type of treat and say, "Thanks for being a SWEET Friend" (or teacher, etc) HERE is some printable ideas. 

Nuts!!! These are Holiday Cocoa Amonds. It would be great to make homemade candied nuts too. 
The tag says "We are NUT'S about you!" {printable tag in link}
 You could even say "Merry Christmas from your NUTTY Neighbors!" :)

Christmas Towel/Oven Mit- 
The tag reads:
"This kitchen towel is given with love and with the hope you will do good works of goodness with it as the Savior did so many years ago. May the absorbing spirit of the season blot our problems, soak up sorrows, wipe away difficulties, and may your holidays be shining and bright!"

What Soccer coach wouldn't love a box of Whoppers? :) The tag says:
"You're a Whopper of a Coach!"
Printable tag HERE


I love soft Socks and Lotion! Especially Perfectly Posh lotion ;)

Wrap up in a Holiday bag, add a cute tag or saying. Easy Peasy! :)

You could do a combination or socks, lotion, nail polish...etc. So fun for girls of all ages. :)

HERE you will find cute idea tags "For your MISTLETOES" or "Wishing you warm and cozy mistletoes all winter long" and other simple gift ideas!

***

I hope you enjoy my ideas and have a fun season of giving! I hope we can give all year long!

Have a very Merry Christmas!!
Remember the reason for the season!




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Pie {Gluten free & Dairy free}


Chocolate Crust directions:

1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
2 TBS coconut oil or unsalted butter
1 egg or egg replacement 
(EnerG egg replacer or mix 1 TBS chia seeds or ground chia seeds with 3 TBS water, let sit for about 5 minutes until it gels up, flaxseed and water works ok too) 

2 TBS milk of your choice (I use unsweeted almond or coconut milk)
1/2 cup dark chocolate (I use "enjoy life" dark chocolate chips- nut free, soy free, gluten free, dairy free)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9 inch pie pan or tart dish. Mix almond flour and cocoa in a bowl. Add the coconut oil/butter and work it into the mixture with a fork until there are no more clumps. Add the egg (or egg replacement prepared) and mix everything together well. Then press this mixture evenly onto the bottom only of the pan. Pierce all over with a fork and Bake on a cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

While it is cooling, slowly melt the chocolate and 2 TBS milk in a sauce pan on the stove. Stir constantly until creamy and smooth. Then, spread melted chocolate over the prepared crust across the bottom. Put into the freezer for 10-15 minutes while preparing the filling.

For the Filling:

1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
2/3-3/4 cup coconut sugar or maple sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness you prefer)
2 tsp pumpkin spice
2 TBS arrowroot, tapioca flour or gluten free cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup canned coconut milk (Native Forest brand is what I use)

*3/4-1 cup dark chocolate chips ("Enjoy Life" brand) to make the drizzle for the top. 

Measure and mix (by hand or standard mixer) the filling ingredients: Pumpkin, coconut sugar, pumpkin spice, arrowroot, baking soda, sea salt and coconut milk. Mix well and then pour over the top of the chocolate bottomed crust, smooth and bake for 50 minutes on cookie sheet. (325 degrees). Allow to cool. 

*If you'd like the drizzle on top- Slowly melt the chocolate and 2-5 TBS almond or coconut milk, stirring constantly until melted and thin enough to drizzle all over. 

Refrigerate pie atleast 1 hour before serving. 

So yummy! 













Hot Chocolate Pudding Pie {Gluten Free/Dairy Free}


Sorry, I didn't make it look that pretty but it really is delicious!!! :)


For the sweet coconut crust:
(or try Pillsbury copy cat Gluten free regular pie crust)

3/4 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 TBS honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl combine almond flour, salt, coconut. In another bowl combine coconut oil, honey and vanilla. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry and thourougly stir together. I actually usually just add all ingredients into a food processor or blender. (my husband doesn't love coconut and blending it all together ensures there are no chunky pieces of coconut. :))
Once mixed, press the dough into a 9 1/2 inch pie pan on the bottom and sides and bake for 7-12 minutes until golden. Set aside and let cool.

For the filling:

1 16 oz can full fat coconut milk (I like the Native Forest Brand, BPA free and organic, I can find it at my local Smiths/kroger. It's at most health food stores and also amazon)
3 tsp Gelatin (Great Lakes Gelatin, use the red label for gelling things, green label for smoothies)
1/4 cup hot water
3 TBS Cocoa powder
6 TBS raw honey or pure maple syrup
2 TBS vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
In a small sauce pan, heat the coconut milk until warm, about 3 minutes. Turn off the stove but keep pan on warm burner. 
In a small bowl dissolve the gelatin in the hot water, whisk until dissolved. 
Add in the gelatin mixture to the coconut milk and whisk together. Add in the remaining ingredients and whisk until fully combined. 

Pour filling into prepared pie crust and chill in fridge overnight or at least for a few hours. 

Yummy Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined sugar free pudding pie!! 



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Paleo Orange Chicken


Ingredients:- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken  thighs or breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- Sea salt
- Ground black pepper
- 4 Tbsp.olive oil or coconut oil

SAUCE
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- Zest of 1 large orange
- 3 Tbsp. raw honey
- 3 Tbsp. coconut aminos
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- Dash red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp. arrowroot starch/flour

Directions:
1. Season chopped chicken pieces with sea salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a medium size saucepan and stir to combine. Place over medium high heat and bring just to a boil, stirring frequently. Allow sauce to thicken and then remove from heat and set aside.
3. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and allow to get hot. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about 5-7 minutes or until nicely browned. Drain any excess fat from the pan and pour half the sauce into the skillet. Stir to coat the chicken in the sauce, remove from heat and serve. Pour the extra sauce over a side of steamed vegetables, brown rice (gluten free but not necessarily paleo) or make some caulifower rice!
(adapted from the Paleo Cupboard)


HERE is another similar recipe

HERE is a "normal" recipe for Orange chicken just swap out the soy sauce for coconut aminos, coconut oil instead of the regular oil, and replace cornstarch with tapioca starch.  

You can learn how to make your favorite recipes and swapping better ingredients for the bad ones!


Gluten Free Pie Crust- Pillsbury copycat

I absolutely love this pie crust. It turns out really great! Fill it with pudding or any other yummy filling options. I actually even love to roll this out flat, cut into fun shapes or just in rectangles and lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon/coconut sugar mixture and bake until brown. A fun gluten free snack. Reminds me of my Grandma because she would do this with any left over from the pie crust dough.and with cinnamon sugar :)





Gluten Free Pie Crust

Ingredients:

3/4 packed cup of blanched almond flour
1 1/4 cup of Tapioca or Arrowroot starch
4 TBSP of salted butter (kerrygold grassfed butter or ghee is good)
4 TBSP of palm shortening (organic spectrum brand)
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of xantham or guar gum
4 TBSP of unsweetened apple sauce

Reserve for later:
1/4 cup of extra tapioca or arrowfroot starch to roll dough out on (Optional)

1. In a food processor add the almond flour, starch, butter, shortening and xantham or guar gum. Process until the dough begins to come together. Add the applesauce and process until a smooth dough forms.
2. Place the dough into a sealed tupperware and place into the fridge 2 hours.
3. After the dough has chilled- mix in the last 1/4 cup of starch and roll out between two parchment papers (dusting with extra starch as needed to prevent sticking). If you chill the dough for 24 hours you will only need a little bit of starch to roll the dough out, you won't need the full 1/4 cup.
4. Quickly place the rolled out crust into the pie pan using the parchment as your guide to hold its shape without breaking.
5. At this point you can either fill the crust with filling of choice and follow the directions for the pie OR bake the crust in a 350 degree oven 16-20 minutes until lighly golden.

*To make this crust completely dairy free you can just double the shortening and leave out the butter.


Fluffy Gluten Free Rolls



Light and Fluffy Gluten Free rolls
Ingredients
2 tablespoons active dry yeast 2 cups warm water 1/3 cup oil (I use olive) 1/4 cup sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons xanthan gum 3 1/3 cups King Arthurs gluten free flour
(OR to make your own gluten free flour blend 1 1/4 cups white rice flour 1 cup brown rice flour 3/4 cup potato starch 1/3 cup tapioca starch)
Cooking Directions
In the bowl of a mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar and let sit for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, adding the xanthan gum last. . Mix using the dough hook of an electric mixer. Mix for about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. You do not knead this like a regular bread dough, but it does need mixed well and I have found about 5 minutes is a good time. Scoop onto a greased cookie sheet. The dough is a wet dough, so I found that using a large ice cream scoop works best for this. This makes 12-15 rolls. Cover rolls loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Bake at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until done. Enjoy!

These are really great rolls!! I even tried to make a loaf of bread with this recipe just put it in the bread pan instead. I cooked it at 350 for 60 minutes. It turned out pretty good. I may lower the heat a little next time because the outside cooked too fast and the inside was a tiny bit too doughy. But, overall I love this bread recipe!
Let me know if you try it!

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