Upcycled Nanaimo Bars? I Can’t Believe They’re Gluten Free!

Nanaimo Bars have been a favourite dainty of mine, since I was a child. Over the years, I have tasted many versions of it ~ both homemade as well as store-bought. I have attempted to make them several times, but must confess that my success rate has not been great. I don’t think I’m alone in my struggle to achieve the perfect base layer. I often find the base to be too dry and crumbly. There is nothing as frustrating as trying to cut a dainty that crumbles apart when you go to serve it. I also found that many times the crust actually tasted dry and lacked flavour as well. I always prefer home baking over store-bought, but eventually gave up on the idea of ever finding the perfect recipe. Eventually, I was served a piece of Nanaimo that seemed to have the perfect base. It was more fudgey and served up beautifully. When I asked for the recipe, I was extended a smile and told it was the “Robin Hood” box mix. I was sold and proceeded to buy the mix and make it as one of the dainties on my annual Christmas baking list. Sadly, Robin Hood discontinued their Nanaimo Mix a few years ago and so I simply omitted it from my baking list. This year I embarked on a mission to find a recipe for the base that would be similar to that of the mix. I googled and searched, but was unable to come up with a recipe. It was then that I decided to come up with my own. I was shocked when my very first attempt came out not only delicious, but held together and served perfectly. I was so excited I just had to share. In addition to it meeting my high expectations…my version is also GLUTEN FREE. I didn’t really intend to create a gluten-free Nanaimo Bar recipe, but as I worked on the recipe, I quickly realized that none of the ingredients I used contained gluten…bonus! So, for all you gluten-free people, here is a delicious gluten-free recipe that does not make you feel like you are sacrificing flavour or texture ~ in my opinion it’s better than some of the more traditional recipes! Obviously, not everyone will agree ~ but I really love my new base recipe which is more like a fudge.  I can’t wait for others to try it and let me know if they like it as much as I do!

Incredible Gluten Free Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:

Base:

  • 2 1/4 cups semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate chips
  • 3/8 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of *thick and creamy coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup of medium shredded coconut

Filling:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Bird’s Custard Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons cream + 2 teaspoons
  • 2 cups of icing sugar

Top Layer:

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (or 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate squares)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Line a 9″ X 9″ square pan with parchment paper (or wax paper) and be sure it extends up over two of the sides so you have something to hold onto to remove the set dainties
  2. BASE:  Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe dish. (My microwave has a setting for melting chocolate, so I would do it in very short increments of 15 seconds or so and stir in between, if you don’t have a setting.) The chocolate does not need to melt completely in the microwave it will continue to melt as you stir it. DO NOT over heat.  Once melted, stir in the coconut milk and vanilla. Finally, add the coconut and walnuts to the mixture and stir well to combine.
  3. Spread the chocolate base mixture into the parchment lined pan. Chill in the freezer while you make the yellow filling, but do not allow to set completely or the two layers will separate when you serve.
  4. FILLING:  To make the yellow filling, cream the four filling ingredients together and beat until light. Spread over the chilled bottom layer. Transfer to the fridge to cool while you prepare the top layer. It should set about 10 minutes or so.
  5. TOP LAYER:  Melt the chocolate chips (or squares) and coconut oil in the microwave as in step 2. Once all lumps have been melted, immediately spread an even layer over the yellow filling. I will often spread quickly with a knife and then slide my pan back and forth on the counter to create a smooth even layer, but you have to work fast so the chocolate doesn’t begin to set before you do this.
  6. Transfer the finished Nanaimo Bar to the fridge to set the chocolate. Monitoring the setting is key ~ you want the chocolate to set enough that it is no longer gooey, but not so much that it will crack when you cut it. I usually set my timer and check it after 10 minutes and then about every 5 minutes until the top looks “just set”. I then remove it from the fridge and score the top layer. You may or may not want to slice right through to the bottom, but you want to score through the top layer so that it will not break and separate from the filling when you go to serve it. When I go to cut it into squares, I pull the entire piece out of the pan using the edges of the parchment paper to remove it. This allows me to cut nice even squares.
  7.  It can be stored in either the freezer or refrigerator. The freezer will give it more of a candy bar consistency while the fridge will make it more like fudge.
 
*The “thick and creamy coconut milk” is made by keeping the can of coconut milk in the fridge, so that the water and cream separate. When you open the can, discarded half the water and blended the remaining water with the milk to create a thick, creamy coconut milk.
*I substituted 1 tablespoon of cream with the thick and creamy coconut milk in the filling layer and loved it. I was tempted to try the whole amount, but didn’t. I might try that next time!

This might seem like several steps, but it is really quite quick and easy to whip up. If you decide to give it a try, please let me know how it turns out for you. I hope others enjoy it as much as we did!

Laundry Room Project Part 7: Vintage Sewing Machine Upcyle

From the very beginning of this laundry room project, I created a list of old/vintage items I might like to incorporate into the space. I had a vision for how I might use some vintage sewing machine parts and happened to find one on Kijiji that was in very bad shape. Of course, that was great news for me because I was able to pick it up for a mere $25. Score!!

I had intended to use the base, but as the room has evolved, I’m not sure that I will proceed as originally planned. However, I did take out the drawers, give them a light sanding and then added a layer of turquoise paint followed by a top coat of Simply White. Once completely dry, I distressed it slightly by sanding back through the layers of paint.

Although the vintage sewing machine came with some of the original hardware, I didn’t like it because unlike the rest of the machine, the handles were much less weathered looking. I decided to try to rust and patina them myself. I followed the instructions on Treasures from the Heart to get that perfect aged patina look.  As suggested in the tutorial….be patient. I was surprised how much the pieces continued to deteriorate even after many hours of sitting out. I did end up doing a second dunk in the vinegar/salt solution and once again left them to sit for several hours days. Time is definitely your friend in this process and patience does pay off. I’m so pleased I stuck with the original handles, as I now love them with rusty patina surface.

round wooden knobsFinally, I went through my crafting stash and found a bag of small wooden ball knobs. They made perfect little feet for the drawers. I glued them on with No Nails and gave them a quick coat of paint.

When I purchased the fabric for my laundry basket, I bought a second coordinating fabric to go with it. Although I wasn’t sure what I would use it for, I decided drawer liners would make the perfect accent in my new laundry room.

Loving these!!

DIY pin cushionWhen we originally began this whole process, I moved my scrapbooking room out of what is now my new laundry room. I moved most of my craft/scrapbooking things into what is now my very own space. The old spare bedroom (which has never actually held a bed) is now my dressing room and scrapbooking room. When this whole move took place, I decided that I could no longer keep my sewing machine upstairs, so all of my sewing gear got moved to the basement. The good news is that it is very portable, so I just carry it up when I plan to do any sewing and for the most part this works fine. However, I have found that it is quite a pain running to the basement everytime I need a needle and thread, so I decided to make one of the drawers into a mini sewing kit that would be the new home for my sewing scissors, measuring tape, seam ripper, a few spools of thread and my new make shift pin cushion. I simply added some batting to the top of the sealer lid and covered it with a fabric scrap that I hot glued in place. The ring for the sealer was spray painted white and voilá ….a coordinating pin cushion. Obviously for any real sewing job I’ll still need to make the trek to the basement, but this is a great solution for those tiny jobs that require a quick fix.

Laundry Room Project Part 6: Decorative Cabinet

Although I’m generally considered the Kijiji master in our house, it was Tim that found this little gem. I wanted a small cabinet to hold odds and ends and add a bit of weight to the far wall of my new laundry room. This ghastly piece was pretty ugly with its black paint and gold accents, but we loved the wrought iron behind the glass and at $30 it was a great deal!

The glass and iron pieces were secured in place by a few screws, so they were easily removed for painting. After roughing up the surface, I primed and painted the cabinet out in my favourite Benjamin Moore white ~ Simply White OC-117.  Originally, I gave the wrought iron a fresh coat of black spray paint, but when I put it back together I didn’t like the contrast and opted to take it apart and repaint the iron white. I love the white iron behind the glass and am pleased I took the time to re-do it. Spray paint comes in limited colours, so I was not able to get a perfect match, but I actually don’t mind that the whites are a little off.

 

Laundry Room Project Part 4: Wood Counter Tops

I’m feeling bad about the lack of activity on my blog, especially since I’ve had my new laundry room up and running for almost a month. September is super busy at work and in all honesty I find I don’t have much “gas in my tank” for much else during my down time. We have been plugging away at the finishing touches, but as for function – it is totally awesome! I can honestly say it has changed my life. I pop in loads every day or two and have absolutely no laundry building up. I used spend my entire weekend doing load after load and now it just seems to always be done – so thankful for this convenience.

We really wanted to transform this space at minimal cost and I have to say we have been pretty successful. I bought paint and we paid someone $100 to drill the hole for the dryer vent. Tim did all the plumbing and electrical and we managed to carry both appliances up ourselves (without too much difficulty I might add). The last steps to making the space functional involved some essential storage space and a counter. Originally we had planned to put in a sink, but after contemplating it, we decided we could always add one in later if we thought it was needed. To be honest, I don’t think it is something I will need and I knew it would take away some of the limited counter space, so we opted to wait.

Tim bought plain old 2 X 6’s for the counter for under $60. We had the screws and stain on hand, so there really weren’t additional costs. I know he spent several hours measuring, sanding, building and staining it, but I love the finished look. The dark stain looks great with the white/blue and ties in nicely to my dressing room/scrapbooking room which is the adjacent room. Projects like this are always harder than you initially expect because nothing is ever “square” in a 100 year old house. I am so proud of him and the great quality work he did. He did such nice work that my 10 year old appliances don’t even look half bad (although we do need to adjust them slightly as they aren’t quite level).

We picked up this Ikea cabinet through Kijiji for $60 (I think). It provides perfect storage for my vacuum, gift wrapping supplies and extra linen. As you can see, we still need to figure out the space below the counter top, install some shelves, the ironing board and a few other finishing details. We’ll continue to chip away and completing this project in the next few weeks, but at least it is up and running!

One of my favourite things about the laundry room is the awesome smell of freshness! I never even noticed this before because I always did “load and dash” when I had to do laundry in the basement. Now I love to linger in my new space and actually enjoy folding the clothes on the large counter top! It’s bright and pretty and smells great too! Feeling blessed.

Best Homemade Granola EVER!

My friend Robin passed on this recipe and I’m not yet sure whether to be thankful or not. It is like a tiny piece of heaven and seriously addictive. The best/worst part is that it’s pretty healthy. Not sure about you, but sometimes the most incredibly delicious nutritious snacks are the worst ~ I seem to be able to convince myself that a little more won’t hurt because it’s good for me. I love that this granola is grain free! This is where I should mentioned that if you or someone you live with has a nut allergy, bringing this into your house would be a huge mistake and ill advised. However, if you’ve managed to dodge that bullet and enjoy nuts ~ you absolutely MUST try this recipe. I take no credit for this incredible concoction, but believe it is one recipe I will never tire of.  It really is that good! (In my opinion of course.) The down side is that it’s pretty costly to make and for that reason alone, my friend said I would soon learn to ration it!

All the credit for this recipe goes to Gwen at baD.I.N.K.adink (which she adapted from the Paleo Cupboard). Not only is the recipe great, but I love the name of it ~ “Cracknola”!

Her Cracknola recipe consists of 4 cups of mixed raw nuts (I used cashews, pecans, almonds and macadamia ~ so delicious!), coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and dried cranberrries tossed in a wonderful coconut oil and honey mixture. Have I mentioned how good this is? For the full recipe, check out Gwen’s site. You will not be disappointed. I made it according to the recipe, but did bake it a little longer as is often the case with my oven.

It is delicious on yogurt and porridge, but great to snack on by the spoonful as well! Enjoy, but remember to proceed with caution….highly addictive!

 

 

Laundry Room Project Part 3: Upcycled Light Fixture

Upcycled Vintage Basket Light FixtureLike any room make-over, you generally have a vision for how the space will look when you’re done. I have dreamed of a main floor laundry room for a long time and although I have a very distinct style in mind, there are so many great ideas out there that it is hard to narrow it down and decide exactly what I want in this new space. My old laundry room was really not a laundry room at all, but rather a corner of my unfinished basement that housed stinky hockey equipment, various tubs of items in storage, boxes for electronics that were still on warranty, the freezer and so much more. It was nasty to say the least. If one doesn’t hate doing laundry because of the nature of the task, having a complete and utter dump in which to do it will turn you off for sure.

The one thing I knew  for certain was that I wanted to do lots of upcycling in this space (not unlike the rest of my house), but with deliberate intention to mix old and new. For the light fixture I wanted something old and worn that would add a bit of character to the space. I have high 10 foot ceilings, so I knew that a pendant would be necessary in order to get adequate lighting. Although I didn’t know what the final form would take, I trusted that I would know the piece when I saw it. Sure enough, I found this incredible antique metal basket at one of my favourite antique stores “Candle and Co.” in West St. Paul. I picked it up for $40 and the best part was I didn’t have to do one thing to it! I loved the colour and the peeling paint/rust was exactly the look I was going for.

Antique Metal Basket upcycle

I actually picked up three items for $46! Love this basket.

In addition to the basket which would end up being my make shift shade, I also picked up a set of two pendant lights for $5 at a garage sale.  (Yes, that is $2.50 each – what a deal!) All I needed to do was remove the glass and spray paint it black.

To create the finished fixture, we just took the spray painted pendant and reassembled it with the basket between the rod and the bottom ~ way too easy and I love the finished look. The colour is a hint darker than my walls and the old style bulb is a great finishing touch!

garage sale pendant light

This is sitting a little wonky because the fixture was already taken apart, but basically the glass shade sat inside the metal basket part.

garage sale pendant light

All we did was unscrew the the fixture to remove the glass and spray paint it black.

Tim and I moved the washer up on Thursday. It is hooked up and ready to go. The dryer gets moved today and although the room isn’t even close to being finished with many smaller projects left to complete, my goal is accomplished ~ starting today I can do laundry on my main floor! The light fixture looks great in the space, the only thing I may do, is use a small “s” hook to hold the handle up. It doesn’t interfere with head room, but I may play with the finished look a bit.Upcycled Light Fixture

Deep sigh….feeling so blessed to have such a handyman for a husband and so appreciative that he spent his entire two weeks of holidays working on our laundry room!

Laundry Room Project Part 2: Antique Washboard Upcycle

Upcycled Washboard

AFTER: Upcycled antique washboard for my new main floor laundry room.

You may remember my beginning of summer post with so many lofty goals I hoped to accomplish this summer. Although I have definitely fallen short on my scrapbooking goals. I did manage to plow through many of the items on my “to do list”.

I have to say that purging is what took up most of my time. I went through tubs and boxes and old toys and extra linens…..you name it, I purged it. I posted many items on Kijiji and although there are still lots of items that are up for sale, I have sold a ton and it feels so good to de-bulk. All that accumulated stuff just feels heavy and I must say it is so cleansing to rid your home of all of those things that are not essential and that you just don’t like. As with any great purge, I also came across several great items I forgot I even had. Such was the case with this old washboard that actually once belonged to my mom. (I’m not really sure where she got it, but I do know it once belonged to her and having lost her over 17 years ago – it was a great find and something I wanted to hang on to.)

Finding the old washboard during my summer purge was perfect time with the relocation of our laundry room to the main floor. The washboard was not in great shape and the words on the front plate were faded beyond recognition. I decided to upcycle the washboard to go into my new laundry space. This involved a simple coat of paint and application of the words I wanted on my washboard. I can’t say this was my idea, I saw it on Pinterest and copied the words verbatim. I used the same process when I created the homemade Rummoli board last Christmas. The tutorial I followed for both was from Little Bit Funky.

Letter Transfer:

  1. Create the word art for your project using Word or Pages. To get the curved LAUNDRY word, I inserted a circle and stretched it into a large long oval shape. I used the top edge of the shape to place my letters in the desired shape. To do this you need to place each letter in its own text box and then rotate the box slightly to match the curve of the oval. (In Pages, you hold the command button while clicking a corner of the text box in order to rotate it. )
  2. Carefully glue a piece of freezer paper (waxy side up) t0 a sheet of 8 1/2″ x 11″ cardstock. Make sure it is cut to exact size and glued down on all the corners.
  3. Place the paper inside your printer. (If you don’t know if your ink lands on the top or bottom of your page, you may want to do a test run on a blank sheet of paper so you place it in correctly.) *I place my page with the waxy side facing down.
  4. When you go to print the document, you need to choose: BEST quality on plain paper and FLIP HORIZONTALLY (mirror image). Once you choose this option, your print preview will display your image in mirror image. Press print.
  5. Carefully place your image ink side down on the desired surface. You must be very careful not to smear the ink as it is just sitting, wet on top of the waxy surface. You can not adjust it once placed so do it right the first time.
  6. Use the edge of a spoon to press/transfer the lettering/image to the surface.
  7. Spray with a clear coat (urethane) to seal the image and prevent future smearing. Do not drag a brush over it.

I love how this method is not perfect ~ it gives a great vintage look! My laundry room is certainly not at the decorating stage, but I can’t wait to hang this up when it’s ready for the finishing touches.

Life Hacks I Love #15: DIY Paint Tray Liner

If you’ve been following me for any length of time you will already know that I do a ton of painting! I can’t say I love to paint, but I am a bit of BEFORE and AFTER addict and paint is often my weapon of choice when transforming an object or space. The actual transformation coat is quite fun to apply because it is when you really see your vision come to life, but the steps leading up to painting (patching, sanding, priming) and the clean-up that follows are tedious and void of any real emotional pay off. Prep and clean-up are just necessary jobs that need to get done as part of the process. Over the years, I have tried different paint tray liners (including plastic bags) to help save on the clean-up at the end of a project. Store bought liners work well if they fit properly into your tray, if they are not designed specifically for your tray, they are more of a pain than anything else. My friend uses plastic bags by slipping the entire tray into the bag and tying the ends to secure it. I find that bags slip around and they just don’t work for me.

This summer I finally came up with a DIY paint tray liner that works great! The answer: GLAD Press’n Seal. Depending on the size of your tray, you may need two pieces to cover the bottom and up the sides of your tray. I simply overlap the seam in the middle by a couple of inches to stop leaking. The sticky surface on the bottom of the Press’n Seal adheres to the surface of the paint tray to prevent slippage and works like a dream. I actually made a simple video (my first ever) to show you how great it works. You will see a bit of seepage in the bottom, but this was caused during clean-up when I was trying to scrape some of the excess paint out of the roller with the edge of the paint stick. It slipped and the seam split slightly (you can see the spot at the beginning of the video). Had I not done that there would have been zero seepage. As it was, I simply wiped the spot with a paper towel and it came right off. Now you must keep in mind that my tray is not completely spotless as this is the same tray I have been using for about 25 years of painting!

Voila! So simple and what a time saver! Try it out next time you paint and let me know how it works for you.

If you like this idea and think others might too, share it on FB or Pin it for others to see!

Laundry Room Project: Part 1

Quick share! I am excited beyond words…the first major steps in converting my old scrapbooking room into our new main floor laundry room are done – plumbing, electrical, patching, priming and paint. I don’t even have my appliances in yet and I am bursting with excitement. The room looks amazing with a fresh new paint job and just the thought of having MAIN FLOOR LAUNDRY has me giddy. Maybe if I get really courageous, I might actually share what my current laundry room in our cave of a basement looks like. I’ll feel like Cinderella going to the ball when I step into my new laundry room!

This room was in desperate need of an update. The original colours made the room look dark and drab. The fresh paint brightens the room and makes it look so much bigger! Can’t wait to pull it all together and get this room functional. I am absolutely in love with this colour ~ Sherwin Williams: Tidewater (I actually get Benjamin Moore to do a colour match for me because I love their paint so much.)

Huge shout out to my husband who can do all things handy! He is amazing and even took holidays to help pull off some of the many projects on our list. We hired someone to drill the dryer vent hole, but other than that he has done all the plumbing and electrical – he rocks and I feel so blessed to have him!

Check out these BEFORE and AFTERS!

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Life Hacks I Love #14: Dishwasher Cutlery Basket Repair

Cutlery Basket RepairThe great news is I fixed my cutlery basket and the utensils no longer slide through the bottom and interfere with the function of the dishwasher or the pulling out of the bottom drawer! The bad news is I am not the genius I thought I was when I came up with the idea on how to repair this. I had two holes in the bottom of my basket that were driving me nuts and one night in bed it dawned on me – ZIP TIES! Although I wasn’t sure if the plastic would hold up or melt, I thought it was a brilliant idea ~ so simple, effective and inexpensive! (In fact free for me because of course, I had some on hand.) It took me about 5 minutes to repair the basket and to date (about 2 weeks now) the repairs are holding up very well.

So this morning before doing this post, I thought I would do a quick google search to see if anyone else has attempted to repair their baskets and see what ideas they came up with. I quickly found Mert’s Workshop and his great video on how to use zip ties to repair your basket. I must say I felt a little deflated because I really did come up with this idea all on my own, but I guess it just wasn’t that original after all. The silver lining is that I can share Mert’s detailed DIY video and save the time of restating the tutorial in my own words. Check-out Milt’s video to see how simple it is to have your basket repaired in no time at all! My personal preference is to stay away from red and stick with something a little less obvious like white, but the red ones give you a great visual of how they work.

If you like this idea and think others might too, share it on FB or Pin it for others to see!