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The Easiest Homemade {Real} Chocolate Syrup Ever

It’s a little bit hard to actually call this a recipe since it’s really so simple, but when you’re a mom trying to find ways to incorporate real food in fun ways into a child’s diet, and you find a simple solution, you just have to share it!

My kids love chocolate milk. Most kids do, right? Those store-bought chocolate milks, though, are full of ingredients that we don’t feed our children, and the chocolate syrups are just as bad. There are quite a few coffee recipes out there that use cocoa (or cacao) and pure maple syrup, so I started experimenting one day, and this is the result — an amazingly simple chocolate syrup recipe with all real ingredients that mixes completely into milk (cow, almond, soy, coconut) and coffee, and it tops desserts beautifully, too!

Just two ingredients: dark cocoa or cacao powder and real maple syrup.Measure 3/4 cup of maple syrup in a sauce pan, add 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.Heat it over medium heat while whisking until it’s just warm enough for all the powder to dissolve. Set it aside, and let it cool to room temperature.Pour it into a syrup jar or a squeeze bottle and keep it in the refrigerator door. (Our syrup jar came from Target.)When you’re ready for chocolate milk, just pour the amount of syrup that you like into your glass of milk and mix it in. Or, if you have a craving for a coffee house mocha, brew up a cup of coffee and stir in some homemade chocolate syrup with your half and half. Yum!You can do all sorts of things with this syrup: serve it with chocolate chip pancakes, pour it on chocolate sundaes, drizzle it over chocolate cake. That’s a lot of chocolate, isn’t it? Can you ever really have too much?

Last-Minute Game Day Hot Dip {Gluten Free & Low Carb}

So, there’s a big game this weekend in the U. S., and whether or not you’re a big football fan, there’s a good chance you’ll be gathering together with friends to watch it . . . or perhaps to just watch the commercials. Either way, there will be food involved. I have a tendency to fail to plan ahead when it comes to bringing along snacks to share, so I love having a few simple, but really good recipes in my stash. This one is incredibly yummy, super easy, and gluten-free/low carb to boot!

Here’s what you need to get started:1-8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup of salsa
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Toss the cream cheese and the salsa into a mixing bowl.Mix until they’re well combinedDump in 1/2 cup of cheese and fold it in. Pour the mixture into a 9″ pie plate or an 8″ square baking dish.Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top.Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the dip heated through. Garnish it with some chopped scallions, if desired.Serve it with tortilla chips or with celery sticks for your low carb friends.Quick and easy, but a little more impressive than stopping at the grocery store on the way, right?

Real Food Gluten-free Dark Chocolate Brownies &
the IJ Pattern Winner

I have been experimenting with creating a yummy, gluten-free brownie with real-food ingredients since I went gluten-free in January, and I think I finally found the one! It’s not too gooey, not too cakey, but right in between. It’s filled with dark chocolate and has just a hint of coconut flavor from the coconut oil. YUMMY!

These do have a small amount of white sugar from the chocolate chips. I started my experimentation with this recipe, and hoped to substitute something else. Nothing else worked quite the same way, though. I do use Enjoy Life chocolate chips since they’re free of soy and other allergens, and they taste great!

I’ve been working to take xanthan gum out of my gluten-free baking because it’s just not an ingredient that I’m comfortable using. It doesn’t fit the real-food guidelines well at all. I’ve found that whole husk psyllium works well in everything except for yeast bread, and it’s good for you! It’s also fairly easy to find in any health food store. (Sprouts carries the Organic India brand that I use.)The Ingredient List
¾ cup brown rice flour
½ cup almond flour
1 tablespoon whole husk psyllium
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dark cocoa or cacao powder
½ cup salted butter (if using unsalted, increase salt by ¼ tsp.)
¾ cup + ¼ cup chocolate chips
½ cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract (gluten-free)
1 cup maple syrup
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure dry ingredients into bowl of stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Mix or whisk by hand.Melt butter and ¾ cup chocolate chips over low heat in saucepan, stirring to keep from scorching.Once both are melted and smooth, remove from heat.Whisk in coconut oil and vanilla extract.Pour the chocolate mixture into mixing bowl and mix well. Add maple syrup, then eggs, one at a time. Mix well with each addition or allow your stand mixer to do it for you.Grease a 9X13 baking dish. Pour batter into dish and spread evenly.Sprinkle the top with the remaining chocolate chips.Bake for 32-34 minutes at 350 degrees. Brownies are done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overcook them!If you can stand to wait, allow them cool before cutting them so they’ll hold together nicely. If you’re like us and need them straight out of the oven, remove them very carefully so that they don’t fall apart . . . and don’t burn your tongue trying to eat them too fast! Enjoy!Last Saturday, I shared my version of the Indygo Junction Casserole Carry-All and offered a second IJ Casserole Carry-All pattern to one of you! I asked you to share your favorite thing to bring to potlucks, and every single response made me more and more hungry. Some of you even shared whole recipes! Thank you! I’m going to have to give a few of them a try. There were 80 total individual comments, and Random.org chose #72 as the winner. Huge congratulations to Fran who said that she likes to bring Chicken and Broccoli Casserole to potluck dinners! I’ll get in touch with you right away so I can ship this pattern and the wooden spoon handles to you!

Katie’s 2nd Birthday Celebration

Our sweet granddaughter, Katie, turned 2 on the 4th of July, and we got to host her second birthday party right here on Saturday! We kept it small and simple, but fun and pretty. (Two-year-olds don’t really remember their parties, but they will love seeing the pictures someday!)I took on the responsibility of baking the cupcakes and sewing Katie’s party dress, and true to my wait-to-the-last-minute-to-do-everything nature, I didn’t start on either until after dinner on Friday night. Only a few minutes into mixing together the cupcake batter, I reached up into the cabinet above my work space and knocked out a glass jar. In the instant following, I chose to save my darling six-year-old who was standing in the chair next to me, and I sacrificed my favorite vintage yellow Pyrex mixing bowl. (Yes, one of the mixing bowls that I was so worried about in our move: Settling In.)By the time the mess was cleaned up (Pyrex shards fly a long, long way!), and I was putting a new batch of cupcake batter into the oven, it was 8:00! And, I hadn’t even decided what exactly I was sewing! Thankfully, once I had a picture of what I wanted, it all came together quickly and beautifully.Morgan had asked for a polka-dotted tank-style dress in the colors that she’d picked out for the party decorations (colors which were chosen from Katie’s favorite cartoon, Dora the Explorer). A quick trip to Joanns on Friday morning turned up the three fabrics in the skirt and the trim pieces, and the buttons which look like they were made to go with the flower fabric! The fabrics in the knit bodice are those Riley Blake jerseys that I’m loving working with. I’m calling it the retro-modern Dora-ish party dress.As for the food, we served yummy, but not too unhealthy treats. I used this recipe for the cupcakes: Chocolate Gluten-Free Cupcakes, substituting coconut oil for the canola oil and whole husk psyllium for the xanthan gum. For the frosting, I made a standard butter-cream, and added natural pink food coloring using boiled raspberries! The raspberry flavor gave the frosting an amazing sweet-tart taste. Yum!We sprinkled a few mini-chocolate chips on the top of the frosting just for fun, and then left the almost-full bag of chocolate chips too close to a certain birthday girl.Other party fare included Unreal Unjunked candy-coated chocolates served in cute little snack cups, sliced strawberries, chocolate cookies, pink pomegranate chips and lemonade.I also baked up a couple of loaves of Honey & Oat Gluten Free Bread which we sliced and served with honey butter (softened butter whipped with raw honey) and blackberry cream cheese (softened cream cheese whipped with no-sugar-added seedless blackberry jam).The kids all had a great time playing in the backyard on the swing and playground and blowing bubbles. Katie’s big brother, Austin, kept himself busy wiggling a tooth that wasn’t quite ready to come all the way out!Uncle Charlie got caught trying to open the presents and was not happy at all that I was taking his picture! (You can tell from this picture that the inside part of the party ended up taking place in my sewing studio. It was just the most convenient place since the sliding glass door to the backyard is right there.)Katie loved having everyone sing, “Happy Birthday” to her . . . . . . but she couldn’t quite figure out how to blow out the candles by herself! It was okay, though, because Uncle Jamie jumped right in to help!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Shell with Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

I have fond childhood memories of “Magic Shell” ice cream topping. I loved pouring it on thick and crunching down into it with a spoon . . . mmmmm. As sweet as those memories are, though, I prefer to feed my family healthier options now. I’ve been making the Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge from Creating Naturally for quite some time. We love it! I skip the cupcake liners and just spread the liquid onto a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet, freeze it and break it into pieces. It’s amazing straight from the freezer on a hot summer day . . . or really even on a cold winter night . . . it’s chocolate and peanut butter, and it’s good for you! Could you possibly ask for more?As I was sliding the cookie sheet into the freezer one day, I thought, “You know, this stuff is a whole lot like Magic Shell. I wonder if it would work the same way?” With a few little adjustments to make it a pourable sauce, it worked absolutely perfectly! And, with chocolate “ice cream” made from nothing but frozen bananas and a little leftover chocolate sauce, this is a treat that you’ll feel great about serving to your little ones again and again. I promise they won’t complain!Start a few hours early by peeling and slicing ripe bananas and freezing them. I’ve found they process easily if they’re sliced about 1/2″ thick. One to 1 1/2 bananas makes a good serving size.
The “Shell” Ingredients
1/3 cup coconut oil, warm enough to be liquid (It only needs to be about 76 degrees to melt, so don’t heat it too much.)
1/3 cup dark cocoa or cacao powder
1/3 cup natural smooth peanut butter
4 tablespoons raw honey or real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
plus frozen sliced bananas for the “ice cream”

(If your maple syrup is stored in the refrigerator, warm it slightly to room temperature in a saucepan with the coconut oil. Otherwise, it will solidify your coconut oil too soon. I have used peanut butter straight from the refrigerator without a problem, however.)

The instructions for this are really, really simple. Just grab your food processor, dump in all of the ingredients (except for the frozen bananas, of course), and process it until it’s smooth.Pour the sauce into a container, but don’t wash the food processor bowl.Grab your frozen bananas from the freezer and dump them into the food processor.Process until you’ve reached the consistency of soft serve ice cream and dish it out. (It will turn to pea size crumbles first. Just keep processing!)Pour on the sauce.Let it harden.And enjoy that delicious and healthy snack!Crack!Yum!

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