Ultimate Peanut Butter Cup and Caramel Cookie Bar

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This one is a hit. Seriously…My husband raved about them, and I am sure you will as well! Although not paleo, I have taken the original recipe from Hugs and Cookies and adapted it to make it gluten-free! Plus I switched out the Recess Peanut Butter Cups for a healthier version of the same thing. These bars will impress your “taste testers” and will “Wow” the socks off of any guests. 🙂 Enjoy this excellent recipe. 🙂

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups Pamela’s Gluten-Free Artisan Flour
2 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar (I buy a great organic one at Trader Joe’s!)
1 cup light brown sugar (I also buy mine at Trader Joe’s.)
3 cage-free eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup creamy organic peanut butter
1 cup Enjoy-Life Chocolate Chips (They are on sale right now!)
10 full size Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups

11 ounces caramel sauce (I love that this brand does not contain any carrageenan **Please note that the label on this product does say “gluten-free” but that it was made in the same facility that processes soy and wheat.

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350, and grease a 9×13 pan with butter or coconut oil. Beat the sugars and butter until mixed well. Add the vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time, making sure to beat well after each egg addition. Mix in peanut butter until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir gently with a spatula until combine. Add the Enjoy Life chips and stir gently. Press half cookie dough into pan and top with peanut butter cups.
If needed, warm the caramel sauce on low in a saucepan or double boiler until it will pour fairly easily. You do not want to burn your caramel! 🙂 Pour caramel over peanut butter cups. Drop remaining dough over the top of your bars and spread gently with your hands. It worked well for me to drop the dough in various spots over the top as to make the spreading easier.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely and chill. Cut into bars, and enjoy! 🙂

See more at: http://hugsandcookiesxoxo.com/2014/05/reeses-caramel-stuffed-cookie-bars.html#sthash.o5S6Uozg.dpuf

*This post contains affiliate links.

Post 1 of 5 in “Tidbits for Birth, Baby, and Growing Child”: Why a Birth Plan?

It is hard to believe that a year ago, I was approaching the birth of our second son. I have been doing a lot of reflecting the last few weeks on a series of posts that I could write in honor of his birthday. 🙂 I have decided to spend a little time sharing what I feel to be some great resources for moms or moms-to-be of a little one. Stay tuned for more blog posts on titles/topics such as “Why I Chose a Doula” and “Why Chiropractic for My Child?”. As a celebration of my little guy’s first birthday, I am also planning to include a brief post on his party and how to plan on a tight budget. Stay tuned!

I am so excited to share a little tidbit with you today on why I chose a birth plan for not only my first child but for my second as well. You may ask, “What is a birth plan?” “Why would I need one?” “If I do need a birth plan, where on earth do I start?” “How do I write one?” I know that several of these questions crossed my mind. In effort to share what I learned, allow me to address each of these questions to the best of my ability. 🙂

1) What is a birth plan? A birth plan is basically a document in writing that lists your desires/wishes for both you and baby during the labor process, the birth, and post birth. It includes things such as how you desire your pain to be managed, how you want to labor, delayed cord cutting, what your wishes are in regards to vaccinations for your baby in the hospital, etc. It is a valuable document for your team of doctors, nurses, and/or midwives to have and to be made aware of (ideally prior to the time you are admitted to the hospital) as it clearly defines your wishes and desires for your ideal birth experience. Please remember that although you desire everything to go as planned, there are also situations where you may need to be flexible if the health of you or baby is at risk. 🙂

2) Why would I need a birth plan? As mentioned above, this document lists your desires and wishes for an ideal birth and post birth. It also gives your medical team an opportunity to be on the same page as they work with you. It is important to talk through your birth plan with your midwife or OB prior to the birth so that they fully understand what your document entails. Understand your rights as the mother and present your plan with confidence, but also be open to talking through any areas that may need to have some flexibility. Understand also that your midwife/OB may present some concerns or areas where he/she disagrees. To best prepare for your presentation of the birth plan, do your research. Know what you are able to ask for. If you can, speak with a doula (Stay tuned for my upcoming post on “Why I Chose a Doula”) or a friend who has found success with a birth plan. Look up sample birth plans that are available online. There are great resources! 🙂

3) How do I write a birth plan? Where do I start? As I thought about my birth plan, I found great support in looking through several birth plans that others had used. Using samples and research as my guide, I formulated a birth plan that I felt quite good about and was able to use for both of my boys’ births. I have decided to include my birth plan in this post for you. Feel free to use this as a sample/guide as you put your document together. 🙂

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SAMPLE BIRTH PLAN
Birth Protocol Agreement For: Your Name Here

Location: Place where you will be giving birth
Certified Nurse Midwife: Name of your nurse/midwife
Name of Father and Mother: Your name here
Baby Due Date: Your baby’s due date
People Present at Birth: People you wish to have with you in the birthing room

We are pleased with our choice to work with the Certified Nurse Midwifery staff as well as the staff at Name of Your Medical Center. Throughout the pregnancy, we have received excellent care, and we are looking forward to working with you as we give birth naturally to our baby.

We feel that we have educated ourselves well during the pregnancy by attending the Bradley Method classes and have done our best to do everything we can to stay healthy and low risk. As a part of the preparation for a beautiful birthing experience, we have put together the following documents that discuss what we desire for labor, delivery, and postpartum. Since this is a very special event in our lives, we have put much thought and consideration to what we have listed in this document. We respectfully ask that you help us in achieving our birth goals.

Above all, we are looking forward to having a natural and peaceful birth experience. The following is very important to us regarding what we desire and what we would like to avoid:

• Please do not offer us any pain medication, drugs, epidural, or Pitocin at any time.
• Please help us to avoid any induction of labor at any time unless it is absolutely necessary. I would like to try non-medical techniques to help the process of labor start on its own (walking, teas, etc.). We feel very strongly that we would like my water to break on its own. If induction is necessary, please use a minimal dose.
• It is very important to us that I am allowed freedom of movement as is comfortable to me during the laboring process. Therefore, we would like to avoid IV’s. We also do not wish to be hooked up to any fetal heart monitors as these would restrict freedom of movement. As an alternative please only do occasional fetal heart monitoring as necessary (intermittent monitoring). If possible, we would like if you could use a fetoscope to monitor the heart rate and do occasional doptone checks when necessary.
• We strongly desire that vaginal exams are minimized.
• It is important to us that we are allowed privacy during the first stage labor. Please understand that we feel strongly about laboring in a way that seems natural to my body. We do not desire for me to labor on my back. Rather, it is important to us that I am allowed to use alternative methods to work through labor (tub, walking, squatting, sitting, various body positions that are comfortable to me, birth ball, music, etc.). I am looking forward to wearing my own clothing as long as possible during the labor process. My husband and I would like to have our own cooler of food available to us during the labor, delivery, and hospital stay that would contain items such as snack bars, dried fruit, an electrolyte drink, water.
• During second stage labor, it is important to us that we are allowed the freedom to give birth in a position that is comfortable for me, such as squatting or using a bed with a squat bar.
• Please help us to avoid an episiotomy.
• Please allow the placenta to deliver on its own.
• Please understand that we feel very strongly about having skin to skin contact with my newborn right away where I am allowed to start immediate breastfeeding.

In addition to our wishes that we have expressed above, we also have put together our wishes specifically dealing with the care of our baby. We respectfully ask that our informed decisions be honored.

• Please do not give our baby the Vitamin K1 vaccination, the Hepatitis B vaccination, the eye drops, and the sugar water at any time after birth as well as during our entire hospital stay. It is also important to us that no supplementary bottles with formula be given to our baby during our hospital stay.
• It is important to us that there be a delayed cutting/clamping of the umbilical cord until the cord stops pulsing unless there is an emergency where cutting the cord immediately would be necessary.
• Please understand that we feel strongly that the vernix skin not be removed from our baby’s body. Rather we would like this covering to be left to rub in for immune support.
• We are looking forward to and respectfully request that our baby remain in the room with us as much as possible. Please do all weighing, measuring, and any evaluations right in our room.
• If our baby is a boy, we feel strongly about waiting 8-9 days before the circumcision happens.

Please know that we will be flexible on all points listed in this entire Birth Protocol Agreement if an absolute emergency/complication arises. Although we feel confident that everything will go normally, we trust and respectfully ask that you inform us if any problems come up so that my husband, doula, and I can discuss the choices to be made and choose our new plan of action. We take our responsibility of being good parents very seriously and want to do what is best for our baby.

Thank you for your kind attention. We look forward to sharing this, one of life’s most miraculous events, with the very special people on your staff. Again, it is a privilege to be able to work with such a qualified and wonderful team of people.

Sincerely,

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What about you? Have you used a birth plan? Did you find it valuable? What would you recommend be included on this document?

Gooey Goodness Brownies with Avocado Mousse Frosting

If you want a bite of chocolate goodness, keep reading. This recipe is worth every bite. Not only is it tasty, but it is filled with nutrient dense ingredients and healthy fats as well. Plus, they are egg-free, gluten-free, and dairy free. I think I found a winner recipe for my son’s birthday cake, and I am so excited!! Enjoy the gooey treat (and don’t feel one bit guilty!).

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Ingredients for the Brownies:

4 tablespoons Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
¼ cup Natural Value coconut milk (I like this brand because there is no guar gum or thickeners.)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup organic pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cacao powder
4 tablespoons coconut flour
4 tablespoons arrowroot flour
1/4 cup Enjoy Life Chips to fold in (optional)

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350.
Over a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, coconut milk, and coconut oil. Stir constantly. Pour into a medium sized mixing bowl, and add in the maple syrup, pumpkin, vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Beat until combined.
In a separate bowl, stir together the coconut flour, cacao powder, and arrowroot. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix with a spatula until just combined. Fold in additional chocolate chips if desired.
Place in a greased 8×8 pan, and spread out evenly. Bake for 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean (Don’t worry about under-baking a little! 🙂 Cool completely. While cooling, prepare the mousse frosting. 🙂

For the mousse frosting, just follow ** this recipe. Frost with half of the mousse, and save the rest just for eating! 🙂

These brownies are great cold or warm! 🙂

Another great option is to sprinkle the brownies with a little coconut butter. 🙂

**Please note that I have changed which coconut milk I use since posting the mousse recipe. I now use Natural Value instead of Native Forest. 🙂

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Paleo Chocolate Frosting (or Topping)

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Oooh…this is good, and it is just in time for summer. Who doesn’t love a little chocolate sauce on top of her ice cream? The great thing about this sauce is that it is tasty (No kidding!), but also, it only contains 2 ingredients–good quality chocolate (I prefer Enjoy Life chocolate chips or chunks) and full fat coconut milk. That’s it! It’s tasty, and actually, it is a super healthy dessert choice for topping, frosting cakes, or eating right off of the spoon.

If you know me, you know that I passionately research ingredients. Why? I want to know that what we eat is recognized by the body as natural and is supporting a lifelong lifestyle of wellness and health. I also want to find healthy food that tastes good! Every one of us has had an experience with “health food” that we want to forget forever, and I can say, I have definitely had my fair share of those times as I have continued on this journey of wellness. When it comes to this recipe, as well as others I post, you can know that I have researched it, made it, tasted it, and have approved it! 🙂

So why use Enjoy Life chocolate and full fat coconut milk? This brand of chocolate is a frequent choice of mine since it is gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, peanut free, tree nut free, egg free, soy free, fish free, shellfish free. It is an allergy friendly chocolate, and this reputable company is knowledgeable when it comes to the ingredients they put into their products. They quote the following in their mission : “At Enjoy Life, our whole business is making smile-good foods that keep people’s insides happy. We are focused on providing foods that are not only safe, but taste great too. That’s why all of our foods are specially made to be gluten-free and free of the 8 most common allergens.” When it comes to the coconut milk, I most often will use the full fat option because it is a great source of medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid. Check out the benefits of coconut as well as a recipe for homemade coconut milk from the Wellness Mama. I have not personally made the homemade version yet, but am excited to try it. For now, I use the Native Forest brand of coconut milk as I know that their cans are BPA free.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe! Enjoy, knowing that you have created a healthy version of a delectable treat!

Paleo Chocolate Frosting/Topping

3/4 Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

6 Tablespoons of full fat coconut milk

Directions: In a double boiler, gently heat the coconut milk and chocolate together. Stir frequently until smooth. Remove from heat and enjoy! Store any leftovers (if there are any) in the fridge. 🙂

Recipe from: Living Healthy With Chocolate

French Silk Avocado Mousse

It’s no secret…I LOVE CHOCOLATE.

Yes, I will admit it. I won’t even try to hide the fact that this is something that I eat everyday. Once I decided that this was a fact worth celebrating, I started to have a bit of fun!I resolved that I could not only make chocolate often, but I could also make treats that were guilt free! 🙂 Yes, you heard me. Guilt free. I have decided to include several recipes for treats on this blog which would be considered “guilt free” because all of them are gluten free! In addition to that, they are free of refined sugars and artificial junk! 🙂 Several of them even contain healthy fats and oils such as unrefined coconut oil, palm oil, and yes, even green ingredients like avocados! 🙂 So, indulge with gusto!

French Silk Avocado Mousse

• 4 oz. Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
• 1/8 cup of Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
• 1 ripe Avocado (about 7 ounces, measured whole)
• ¼ Cup Coconut Palm Sugar
• 1-3 tsp. Stevia(depending on your taste preference)
• 1/2 cup Cacao Powder**
• 1/2 cup coconut cream, chilled from a can of full fat coconut milk (I like to use Native Forest)
• 1/2 Tablespoon of Vanilla
• (optional) ½ teaspoon of Espresso Powder or Fine Coffee Grounds
• Pinch of Salt

Directions:
1. Gently melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together.
2. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Scoop out the avocado meat and place into a mixing bowl.
4. Add the chocolate coconut oil mixture, sugar, Stevia, and cacao powder.
5. Whip on medium high speed until mostly combined, about 2-3 minutes. Use whisk attachment for a stand mixer.
6. Add the coconut butter, extract, espresso, and salt.
7. Whip on medium high to high speed for about 5 minutes until fluffy.
8. Let the mousse chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
9. Top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Optional: Make a double batch and spoon it into a gluten free pie crust for a healthier version of “French Silk Pie”!
**Instead of cacao powder, you can replace it with 1/4 cup NutriDyn’s Dynamic Fruits and Greens, Espresso Flavor. This will give you the added bonus of hiding some extra nutrition in your mousse!

Update: I have had a couple people recently share with me that they need to avoid Stevia. If you want to make this recipe without Stevia, just increase the vanilla extract to 1 tablespoon, and add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup in addition to the coconut sugar that is already in the recipe. Enjoy! 🙂

Recipe adapted from Paleo Fondue