Recipe: Sweet Hearts

IMG_3276Ok … they are jam drops … for my sweet hearts!

But they are also vegan, grain-free and sugar-free (except in this case, for the jam) and they went to school in my kids lunch boxes as a Valentines treat. And there is a few left over for me.

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There’s not really that much I want to say about them, except that sugar is not required for sweetness …and I love how simple they are.

IMG_3269I also love how we mark them with our thumbs to make a little place to spoon the sweetness into. From my heart, to the fruits of my heart …

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Grain-Free Sweet Heart Jam Drops

INGREDIENTS

150g almond meal

50 g honey / maple syrup

50 g coconut flour

100g coconut oil / butter

2 tsp vanilla essence

your favourite jam: sugar-free if possible.

METHOD

Whizz everything except the jam together in the food processor until it is just combined.

Press mixture down on a non-stick surface and use a cookie cutter to make shapes. Before you lift the cutter, squish your thumb into the middle to make a shallow hole. Use a spatula to lift the shape on to your baking tray.

Spoon a little jam into each hole and bake at 150C until golden on top.

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Valentine Craft: Envelopes for Essence Statements

Yay! Playgroup is back!! Soooooo much has happened in the eight weeks since we last had playgroup, and I’ll tell you about that soon, but for now … Lavendilly Sunshine Playgroup is back!! Hooray!IMG_3259

I can’t say how much my heart fills with joy when my house is filled with these beautiful people. Children and adults alike, I love them all and they are an important part of my life. How fortunate for us that Valentines Day falls at the beginning of term. Valentines is not a big celebration here in Australia, not like it is in North America … I remember my grade four class in Canada around Valentines Day. Writing everyone cards and letters was serious business!

Today we made little felt envelopes. They are not new. They pop up on blogs everywhere around Valentines Day, and I’ve made them before in my teaching days, and children love to have them in the home corner to post each other letters. Today, however we filled them up with essence statements about each other.

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Essence Statements are something we use often in our work at Sacred Essence. A gift to another person to share something you’ve noticed about them, a kind observation, a reminder of their special qualities, a summary of something you just heard them speak about. They are not always messages of love, sometimes they are reflections of us. We forget our own special gifts sometimes!

The morning was spent in happy stitching and chatting and playing, and while the children were eating their playgroup bread the adults fell quiet, thinking of and writing their essence statements for each other.

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Valentines Day need not be a big showy affair  (although every now and then that’s really nice!!) I feel nurtured and strengthened by the essence statements gifted to me today. I must say it was pure pleasure to see my little envelope filled with messages of friendship and love from my people. Even more so – the quiet moment spent with a cup of tea, reading through them while my little one slept beside me.

We made them with a single strip of felt, rounded at one end, folded into thirds and stitched on three sides. The rounded end becomes the flap and it can be tucked inside the envelope. Every one made theirs the way they wanted to … some with more decorations than others. As individual as the people who made them. We all had fun cutting out stamps with the pinking shears and stitching those on too … I chose to put an ‘address’ on in symbolic stitching. As an early childhood teacher, early literacy in children’s playthings is important, but literacy development also happens when we play with symbols and behaviours that surround literacy … for two-year olds, some lines that look like letters on an envelope serves the purpose, and their own writing fills the letters inside. Play and imagination leads to a love and interest in literacy … and that is as important as the letters themselves.

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As soon as my kids came home from school (yes! There are two of them at school now!) This one started making an envelope for herself. She is five. Her eight-year-old brother got her started and the rest she has done on her own. Her brother is making letters to go in them. A perfect team. Love simple crafts.

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Recipe: Raspberry Streusel Bars

In honour of our playgroup day falling on Valentines Day I have made these delicious Raspberry Streusel Bars. The original recipe I found HERE, and it was already a fabulous recipe because it is grain-free, egg-free and dairy-free. But of course I wanted to make it suitable for me to eat on the GAPS diet (no sugar), and I don’t like to use sugar substitutes other than a little honey. I thought about adding honey instead of the sugar, but then our vegan friends at playgroup wouldn’t be able to enjoy it, so I tweaked it a bit, added a bit more coconut and some dates and away we went.

I think that we don’t take advantage of the natural sweetness of many of the foods we use in baking. For a start the raspberries are sweet already, and coconut has a sweetness of its own. Dates can send my sugar-receptors through the roof! I didn’t think that sugar needed to be a part of each of the layers. If the middle bit was sweet enough the base and the topping could do without.

So here is my version of grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar-free Raspberry Streusel. Believe it or not it still tastes delicious!

Raspberry Streusel Bars

INGREDIENTS:

CRUST -2 cups coconut, 2 cups blanched almond flour (almond meal), 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 Tbs vanilla essence

FILLING – 2 cups raspberries, 1 Tsp vanilla or almond extract, 1/2 cup pureed dates, 4 Tbs almond flour, pinch of salt

STREUSEL TOPPING – 1/4 cups finely chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup almond flour, 2 Tbs coconut flakes, 2Tbs melted coconut oil

METHOD:

Combine ingredients for Crust in the food processor until crumbly and press out firmly onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Bake at 180C for 10 minutes.

To make filling, mix raspberries, pureed dates and almond flour together in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Stir a few minutes while it thickens and then remove from the heat. Spread on the crust once it is out of the oven.

Combine all the topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the raspberry filling. (I added a little extra coconut on top)

Place back in the oven and bake another 17 – 20 minutes until the topping becomes slightly golden. It turns dark fast, so watch it so that it doesn’t burn!

Remove from the oven and cook completely before cutting. You can put them in the freezer to hasten the setting and so they hold their structure when they are cut.

Slice and store in a sealed container at room temperature or freeze for another day.