Salted Dark Chocolate Caramel Cups (Refined Sugar-free)

Salted Dark Chocolate Caramel Cups- www.thenourishinggourmet.com

By Katie Mae Stanley, Contributing Writer

Bittersweet chocolate surrounds delicious gooey caramel with a touch of salt in this homemade candy recipe. This is a healthier treat without the use of refined sugars, and the use of dark, antioxidant rich chocolate! It is a perfect treat this time of year. Plus, if you don’t eat it all yourself, it can be easily boxed up for a lovely sweet gift this Christmas. Why not pair it with this Easy Mint Chocolate Fudge recipe for gift giving!

It’s no secret that I love chocolate and that I have a fondness for chocolate when paired with salted caramel. Last year I shared a Salted Caramel Mocha Fauxccino here at The Nourishing Gourmet. Recently I have enjoyed a few cups of steaming Salted Caramel Mocha.

These salted dark chocolate caramel cups are not nearly as hard to make as it would seem. All you need is some high quality dark chocolate, a batch of caramel sauce (or try this one from Kimi) that can be pre-made and a 1/2 teaspoon of course unrefined salt such a Real Salt or Celtic Salt. I prefer using baker’s chocolate because it pairs beautifully with the caramel, balancing out the intense sweetness. It can be made with the chocolate of your choice if you prefer a sweeter chocolate.

I have made candy cups with coconut oil, cocoa powder, and honey before, but when giving gifts I prefer to use pre-made chocolate to make this treat shelf-stable. This makes it more suitable for serving at a holiday party or to give as a gift. You can wrap them in parchment paper and place them in a cute box. Or you might even want to pair them with other homemade candies!

Other homemade chocolates to give as gifts:

Ingredient and tool list:

(Affiliate links.) 

Salted Dark Chocolate Caramel Cups
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Break the chocolate into small pieces. Place in a double boiler.You can also use a sauce pot with a larger heat safe bowl placed on top of the pot. (The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the bottom of the sauce pot, or the simmering water.)
  2. Bring the water to a simmer. Allow ½ of the chocolate to melt.
  3. Remove from the heat and continue to stir until the all the chocolate melts.
  4. Place the mini cupcake liners inside a mini cupcake pan.
  5. Fill each liner with ½ of a teaspoon of melted chocolate.
  6. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to firm up. Once firm, place back on your working space.
  7. Add ½ teaspoon of caramel sauce in the middle of each cake liner. Flatten so that the caramel almost goes to the sides of the cup.
  8. Gently pour 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate over the candies, completely covering the caramel.
  9. Place in the refrigerator for 5 minutes, allowing it to firm slightly.
  10. Sprinkle each cup with a bit of coarse unrefined sea salt.
  11. Return the pan to the refrigerator for 20 minutes or until the candies are completely firm.
  12. The can be stored on the counter for up to 2 weeks or in the refrigerator for two months.

 

Easy Mint Chocolate Fudge (Dairy and Gluten free)

Mint Chocolate Fudge (dairy and gluten free)

By April Swiger, Contributing Writer

Velvety smooth fudge, rich in chocolate, mingled with refreshing peppermint is a must-try this season. This mint chocolate fudge is the perfect way to satisfy a craving, or finish off a hearty meal this holiday season. Even better it’s surprisingly quick to make, and can be boxed up easily to give as a lovely gift.

I am a huge fan of fudge. It’s always my go-to treat during summer vacations at the beach, and my top pick off the Christmas dessert table. The first time I made fudge at home I used Kimi’s recipe for the easiest, healthiest, most scrumptious fudge ever (also see this version using maple syrup). It definitely lived up to its name, and I have made it many times since then to satisfy those pesky little chocolate cravings. I love that her recipe, and the one I created as well, is free from refined sugar, dairy, gluten, and all other kinds of yucky ingredients the more typical fudge recipes have. This version starts with chocolate chips instead of cocoa powder for a more stable fudge for gift giving.

My 3 year old son is a major chocolate lover. He saw me pull out my bag of chips and immediately wanted to help with whatever I was doing. I purposefully made this recipe as simple as possible because, well, life can be a bit crazy with a toddler in tow…especially during the holiday season! He had so much fun helping me dump all the ingredients into a big bowl (not as much as he enjoyed trying to finished product though). I received a hearty “yum yum yummy in my tum tum tummy!” after his first bite :)

Mint Chocolate Fudge (dairy and gluten free)

There are some fantastic chocolate chips on the market that are completely allergy free, and would be a great option for this recipe. I have used the Enjoy Life Brand of chocolate chips, which are very allergy friendly, a number of times and find the flavor and texture top notch!

You can use either the (Affiliate links)  Semi-Sweet chocolate chips, or the dark chocolate chips in this recipe. Truly though, any chocolate of your choice should work, and the amount of honey you add to sweeten the recipe can be adjusted to your liking as well. I used Frontier’s Natural Mint Extract for flavoring my fudge, and it was delicious!

Homemade gifts are some of my favorite to give. Even the most frugal and simple recipe can be made extra special with its presentation. This fudge wrapped in parchment paper, tied up in colorful bakers twine, and a special box makes for a very thoughtful gift.

Other healthy, and homemade, gifts you may enjoy:

Mint Chocolate Fudge (dairy and gluten free)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
 
This velvety mint chocolate fudge is simple to make, includes nourishing ingredients, and is a lovely gift to give this season!
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups chocolate (I used semi-sweet)
  • ½ cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 teapoons peppermint extract
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients into a large bowl, and create a double boiler by placing it over a pot of lightly simmering water.
  2. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Stir continuously until all of the ingredients are smooth and incorporated.
  3. Pour the chocolate mixture into a parchment paper lined dish. If desired, top with crushed candy cane pieces. Refrigerate until hardened, and cut into small square pieces to serve.

 

Homemade and Healthy Christmas Gift Ideas (Fun & Unique!)

Beautiful, fun, and unique homemade gifts (made with all natural ingredients!)

Our tree is up, our decorations are out, and the Christmas music is on! As a family, we look forward all year to Christmas for so many reasons. It’s a time of celebration for us, a time of thanksgiving for our blessings, and a time of giving.

And speaking of giving, I love making and giving away beautiful homemade gifts. But there is a wide variance of worth of homemade gifts. My criteria for homemade gifts:

  • Something the recipient would like
  • Something that isn’t completely contrary to my lifestyle decisions (that is, I’d feel sheepish giving away GMO-laden cheap candy after blogging about the evils of them)
  • And something that is tasty, useful, or adds value to the recipients life.

What homemade gifts fit the criteria depends entirely on who I am giving gifts to, but here are some delicious and useful ideas that meet this criterion for many! And look for even more upcoming ideas soon! (You can sign up for my RSS fed to make sure you don’t miss any).

All of these bundles of ideas can also be separated out into individual gifts as well. For example, a popular singular gift that we’ve given as a hostess gift is a jar of Candied Citrus Peel (they are really quite incredible!). Choose to give away just one jar of something or a basket brimming with treats! Both have been popular in my experience.

I’ve also included items that you can add to the basket that are store-bought, and, because we don’t always have time for homemade everything ,“cheater” options of organic/healthy store-bought options. I’ve included affiliate links below, when applicable. Thanks for supporting this blog! 

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix, Marshmallows and More

Fun Homemade and healthy hot cocoa gift ideas
Homemade hot cocoa mix is a yummy and useable gift that is popular to give and receive, but most recipes use a lot of ingredients that are unfortunate. Plus, I try to use Fair Trade Chocolate because of the problems in the chocolate industry (including unfair wages, child labor, and even slavery). To make it extra special, give along with homemade marshmallows!

Hot Cocoa Basket Ideas

Add Ons:

Cheater Options:

Christmas Candy Plate (made with unrefined sweeteners and natural ingredients!)

Homemade candy perfect for gift giving! These are all made with all natural ingredients too.  I have had so much fun making candies using natural, unrefined ingredients and giving them to family and friends. There are so many beautiful candies you can make. Pick one, or pick 6!

 Recipes for DIY Healthier Candies:

To Give in:

Homemade Ice Cream Gift Basket

Give a fun gift of homemade ice cream toppings such as bittersweet chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, and candied nuts!

I know it’s winter, but who doesn’t like ice cream year round? It’s one of my most favorite treats, and I am certainly not alone in that. What about giving a basket full of scrumptious ice cream toppings? You can even include cartons of homemade ice cream (or organic store-bought) for a beautiful gift.

Topping Recipes:

Ice cream recipes:

Add Ons:

Cheater Options:

For the Kids: Playdough Gift Set

How to make homemade glitter playdough

My girls love homemade playdough! To make it especially winter appropriate, try out the glitter dough, keep it “white” or un-dyed, and then add silver glitter! So pretty. Above left, you see our “Elsa” inspired playdough from the movie Frozen (White, with light blue glitter). It is especially fun to make a couple different color combinations. If you do want to dye it, check out the suggestions in the below links for natural dye options.

Recipes:

Add Ons:

Spa Night or Beauty Basket

Vanilla lavender sugar scrub for soft skin!

Beauty products are popular to give as gifts. They are easy to make, easy to use, and smell wonderful too. I don’t have a lot of recipes on this site (yet) for beauty products, but one great resource for homemade beauty products using superior ingredients is Mommypotomus’s book: DIY Organic Beauty Recipes eBook

Recipe:

  • I am pretty much in love with this Vanilla Lavender Scrub. It makes your skin smooth, soft, and smells great too.

Add Ons:

You can give it along with the other items listed on the spa night post – Epsom salts, beeswax candles, lavender essential oil, and honey for a face mask.

Tea Lovers Gift Basket

DIY Beautiful tea blends to give as gifts!

I love tea, so I have given tea gifts a lot. One year I made up a bunch of chai concentrate steeping bags and gave them away with directions for use to a wide variety of my friends and acquaintances. So fun! But you can also give a basket with several different delicious options. Below are some beautiful, DIY tea blends that are super fast and easy to put together. If you have a local store that carries herbs and spices in bulk, this is a cinch to make. (Mountain Rose Herbs also carries all of these ingredients).

Recipes for DIY Tea Blends:

To give in:

Add ons:

Cheater Options:

Those are some of my ideas! I’d love to hear yours! 

Grain Free Caramel Apple Tart

Grain Free Caramel Tart (egg free and dairy free too!)
This tart has a lovely shortbread crust, and a sweet apple filling made all the better with dairy free caramel sauce. Sweetened lightly with coconut sugar, this healthier treat was a real win in this household! You don’t have to have any food allergies to enjoy this, but it is to grain free and gluten free, dairy free, and egg free!

I have a sweet daughter who can’t have gluten, dairy or eggs, and sometimes that is a challenge. We had been doing gluten and dairy free for a while, but when we found out about eggs, some of our favorite recipes were no longer useable. Thankfully, I have slowly been adding back in recipes that we love that are delicious and fit her needs. This year, I really wanted to figure out an apple pie or tart recipe that wasn’t stressful to make. I’ve made apple pies in the past for her, and they were wonderful, but also a lot of work. (Apple is her favorite pie/tart!).

Why you should own a tart pan

This year I went for the tart, and it was SO easy to make, and incredibly delicious too! That’s a great combination in my mind. We are looking forward to enjoying this at holiday meals. And if you don’t have a tart pan, get one! While I have been weeding out items from my kitchen I don’t use often, I actually added in an item, a tart pan, because I realized how much I was missing out by not having one (easy delicious desserts that make allergy friendly desserts stress-free!).

I ended up buying (Amazon links are affiliate) this tart pan after looking at what was available at local stores and am really happy with it. It’s a stainless steel 9 inch pan. I also love the rectangular versions such as this this rectangular pan, and will probably add that into my collection as well.

For this recipe, you need only three components. The crust (if you can make cookies, you can make this crust, plus no rolling needed), my uber easy dairy-free caramel sauce (or caramel sauce of your choice), and then the apple filling.

I would recommend serving it with whipped cream or ice cream, and the leftover caramel sauce. Yum!

Recipes:

Maple Sweetened Whipped Cream
How to make coconut whipped cream with an ISI dispenser
Vanilla Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Chai Coconut Milk Ice Cream

A word on ingredients:

I’ve tried this crust in a variety of recipes recently. The combination of almond flour and tapioca starch works amazingly well in many recipes (like these Grain Free Mexican Wedding Cookies). I do use a finely ground almond flour (I used this brand). I’m not positive that a more coarsely ground flour would work the same. I also tried out a combination of using non-hydrogenated palm shorting, a combination of butter and non-hydrogenated palm shortening and butter, and all butter, and found that our favorite was the all butter version. If you need this recipe to be completely dairy-free, use the palm shortening option. I recommend this one or this one. Firm coconut oil is another great option; it’s just a little more finicky to work with in a recipe like this one.

I love the use of coconut sugar in this recipe as it lends itself naturally to a caramel flavor, so it enhances the caramel sauce. Yum!

While deceptively simple to make, this easy tart has so much flavor! I used Honeycrisp apples, which were perfect in this recipe. But you can use other excellent cookies apples as well, such as green apples, pink ladies, etc. I used a nine inch pan tart.

This amazing Grain Free Caramel Apple Tart is also egg free and dairy free! A delicious, elegant dessert from The Nourishing Gourmet.

Grain Free Caramel Apple Tart
 
Author:
 
While deceptively simple to make, this easy tart has so much flavor! I used Honeycrisp apples, which were perfect in this recipe. But you can use other excellent cookies apples as well, such as green apples, pink ladies, etc. I used a nine inch pan tart. Serves 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of finely ground almond flour
  • ⅓ cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar (or sweetener of choice, such as unrefined cane sugar, organic evaporated cane sugar, maple sugar)
  • ¼ teaspoon unrefined salt
  • ⅓ cup cold butter, or non-hydrogenated palm shortening (for a dairy-free version, use one of the palm shortenings listed above – firm coconut oil could also work, but is a little more finicky)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 large Honeycrisp apples
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar ((or sweetener of choice, such as unrefined cane sugar, organic evaporated cane sugar, maple sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour, arrowroot flour, or organic cornstarch
  • 2-3 tablespoons of caramel sauce
Instructions
  1. Make caramel sauce, and set aside to cool (can make a week ahead, if desired)
  2. In a food processor, combine the almond flour and tapioca flour with the salt and sugar. If using butter, cut into cubes and add, or measure the palm shortening out and place in the food processor. Pulse until the shortening or butter is blended into the flour in small pieces (biggest pieces should be the size of a small pea). Pulse after each addition of tablespoon of cold water. (You want the dough just to be moist enough that it sticks together when you pinch the dough into a small ball. I found that two tablespoons was just enough.)
  3. Press into the tart pan, making sure that there is a good ¼ inch or so of dough pressed along the side all around the tart pan. This will help make the tart more stable once cooked. Place in fridge. (you can prepare this hours ahead of time, if desired, just cover).
  4. Preheat oven to 375F.
  5. Peel the apples, core them, and then thinly slice. Toss them in a medium sized bowl with the lemon juice, sugar, and tapioca starch. Take the tart pan out and artfully fan out the apple slices in the pan in a circular pattern (if using a circular pan). You want the apple slices to be angled, but not flat (as you wouldn’t be able to fit many slices in that way). We only had a couple slices of apple leftover. Don’t pour the juice from the bottom of the bowl over the apples.
  6. Take the previously prepared caramel sauce, and brush on caramel sauce over all of the apples.
  7. Place in oven and cook for 40-70 minutes, or until the apples are fork tender, and the crust is cooked. I covered with foil at 40 minutes to keep the crust from over browning.
  8. Take out of the oven and cool thoroughly before removing the sides of the tart pan. Slice, and enjoy plain, or with whipped cream or ice cream, served with extra caramel sauce. Enjoy!