If the whole idea of buying bulk cacao nibs online on Amazon blows your mind, then stick to this Easiest Healthy Fudge recipe I made for my mum- it just uses regular ole’ cocoa powder, found at most any store…
I’ve had my challenges working with , trying to get them pureed into a smooth paste. But I’m into it! (I get this economical, 5-lb. bag myself.)
If you want your nibs raw and chunky, make this Coconut Bark recipe. But toasting the nibs brings out the flavor, and improves the texture, as the toasted nibs grind up better.
1 1/2 c. raw cacao nibs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. macadamias, roasted, unsalted (one 8-oz. package)
1 c. dates, halved (Medjool are a favorite)
Optional: 1/2 c. raisins (if you prefer a sweeter mix)
1. Toast in oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes in iron pan; stir once. Turn oven off and let finish toasting for 10-15 minutes more: > 1 1/2 c. raw cacao nibs
2. Process toasted cacao nibs until quite smooth. Add and process again with: > 1/2 c. melted coconut oil > 1/4 tsp. salt > 1 tsp. vanilla
3. In a big bowl, mix together blended mixture with: > 1 c. dates, halved > 1 c. macadamias > Optional: 1/2 c. raisins (for extra sweetness)
4. Spread in loaf pan, then refrigerate overnight.
5. Turn the solid fudge mixture out onto cutting board (run upside-down pan under hot water if necessary). Cut into slice; will last in refrigerator for a month or two.
Authentic Borscht recipes often use rye flour to thicken the soup, and might include “Kwas” (a fermented rye brew). For those used to fermenting foods, it’s nothing too tricky; after rye flour and water ferments for a few days, the water’s poured off. The water gets fermented some more, which gives the soup its twang.
Beets and other veggies make this a colorful, flavorful vegetarian-style borscht recipe. A touch of sauerkraut, Kwas, or other fermented veggies will add a little zip, but a dash of vinegar would sub in a pinch.
Never heard of Kwas? It can be likened to a beer of sorts. A rye flour (or rye bread) and water mixture ferments for days; the water is poured off to ferment some more. An already-brewed Kwas might be found at some specialty markets, but the soup is quite good without it.
Some authentic Borscht recipes also call for homemade sauerkraut, but many prefer the milder, less tangy recipe below. If the tang of sauerkraut is desired, homemade is fairly easy to make, and is completely different from canned sauerkraut. To make it, slice up a cabbage, sprinkle it well with salt, and let it juice up for an hour or so. Put it into a jar, keeping the cabbage weighted down with a plate, so it is submerged in its juices. Pounding it down helps it to juice up that much more and won’t hurt it! Let it sit in a crock, jar, or other glass or ceramic container, at room temperature. Refrigerate after five days or so; it turns into authentic, naturally fermented sauerkraut, which many claim is a healthful food full of beneficial probiotics.
Beef broth and/or chunks of beef can be added as well, for a heartier soup with even more flavor. Serves 4-6.
2 medium-sized beets
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 c. or so slivered cabbage
1 TBS. rye flour (or substitute white flour)
1 TBS. olive oil (for roux)
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp. toasted caraway seeds
2 tsp. white vinegar
Optional: 1/4 c. sauerkraut, beef, and/or beef stock
1. Bake an hour or more (depending on size), at 375 degrees, wrapped in foil, until tender: > 2 medium-sized beets
2. After beets cool, remove skins and julienne. Set aside.
3. Peel, then cook in water to cover, until tender: > 2 potatoes, cubed > 1-2 carrots, sliced
4. Grill in olive oil in a hot pan, adding a splash of water so it will steam some and get tender. Use: > 1 c. or so slivered cabbage
5. In medium-large pot, mix together: > 1 TBS. rye flour (or substitute white flour) > 1 TBS. olive oil
6. Add cooked cabbage to the flour/oil roux and mix well.
7. To the cabbage/roux mix, slowly add hot liquid, mixing until smooth, bringing the mixture to a boil. Use: > Vegetable broth from cooked veggies, plus more water if necessary
8. Bring roux/broth mixture to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes. Add all ingredients to the pot: > The cooked cabbage/broth > The cooked potato/carrots > The julienned beets > salt to taste > 1/4 tsp. toasted caraway seeds > 2 tsp. white vinegar (or substitute sauerkraut > beef chunks and/or beef stock, if desired
My mom’s over 70 years old and doesn’t cook much anymore. When I was in town for Christmas, she still had some of the coconut oil I’d purchased for her earlier this year. I had stocked her up on the stuff after reading that coconut oil might help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. It had struck me, after a scare with mom last January (short-term memory loss with some complications), that indeed, anyone might be vulnerable to dementia of some sort. It hardly seemed a bad idea to take steps that might improve the condition (or even possibly prevent it).
So I threw together a concoction for my mom, using that coconut oil, plus a few other ingredients she had on hand. She’s not like me–she doesn’t order hard-to-find ingredients online, keeping crazy health food ingredients in stock. Her cupboard’s not stocked with palm sugar, cacao nibs, quinoa, amaranth and the like. (If you have a cupboard like that, you might want to check out my “Coconut Bark” recipe, using raw cacao nibs, or this Healthy Fudge recipe using toasted cacao nibs.)
After the typical holiday splurging, I’m actually craving healthy snacks. Like this one! It seems to be a good way to wean myself off the other chocolatey confections we’d been indulging in. This recipe can be multiplied, or adjusted to suit tastes. Add a dash of sea salt, or vanilla, or different nuts, as desired. Makes 8 or so 1/2″ slices.
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 c. dates (Medjool or other)
2/3 c. macadamias (or other nut)
1. Mix everything in a bowl, and press into a small loaf pan (or other mold). Chill until firm, half a day or so, then cut into slices. It’s that easy!
“Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth…Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don’t destroy and thieves don’t break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20
It was a good Christmas. We went back east to visit family, and it was great.
I brought some of my water kefir grains, which was quite a conversation starter. Since the airlines don’t allow liquids, I pumped my kefir up a bit for the travel by putting them in an extra sugary brew for a few hours. I drained that off and packed the grains into a mini-zip-lock bag, reinforced inside several other little zip-lock bags. By the time I arrived in Michigan, those little grains had produced quite a bit of “gas”; the zip-lock bags were almost to the bursting point, quite surrounded by a pillow of air inside the bag.
But they survived! I put the grains into a new jar of brown sugar water upon arriving at my brother’s house, and eventually, my sister-in-law decided she’d take on the project after I’d left town. I hope it works for her!
Over the holidays, what with my kefir grains ever-reproducing, I thought I’d bring some to my nieces as well. They’re into wholesome cooking and natural ingredients, so I thought they might be game to try brewing their own kefir as well. After the initial shock of hearing about how these live little “grains” convert sugar water into probiotics, going on to ferment (in the right bottle) into a “natural soda” of sorts, they were finally convinced. I’ve heard reports since my visit, that the girls are now brewing their kefir quite successfully, so I’m glad I shared with them.
During our stay in Michigan, I noticed a particularly striking, red barn-like shed in someone’s yard. What with its red color standing out against the surrounding snow, I thought it’d make a nice, inspirational picture. It reminded me of the verse from Matthew 6:19-20, about storing up our treasures in heaven. It’s good to remember that verse, especially after Christmas. After all, there isn’t really a gift (or “treasure”) around that compares with the simple joy of spending time with each other.
And now I’ve got a verse attached to one of my favorite winter pictures, to remind me of just that. I even made some wallpaper for my desktop, since it’s kind of fun to put a new picture up on it, that changes with the seasons. If you enjoy the verse and picture, you can click on the links below. They’ll bring you to the page with the extra-large images; all you have to do is left click on appropriate monitor size below, then right click on the image itself, and choose “set as desktop background”.
Do you need an extra-elegant dish to serve for a special occasion? (Like, for New Year’s Eve, maybe?) Fancy terrines and pates can include more exotic ingredients (duck liver, Caul fat, etc.). This simple recipe for a Chicken terrine is made with more basic ingredients, and can be made a day ahead, to let flavors blend. Rewarm to serve for dinner, or serve at room temperature for an appetizer or as part of a lunch or picnic. Serves 8 or so, or more as an appetizer.
2 lb. plus 8 oz. raw chicken breast (divided)
2 TBS. Italian dressing
1 TBS. olive oil
2 TBS. cream
1/2 TBS. fresh, chopped parsley
1 tsp. tarragon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg whites (reserve yolk for sauce)
1 carrot, peeled
2 oz. (2/3 c. or so) fresh spinach
4 oz. thin-sliced ham
5 bay leaves:
2 egg yolks
1/4 c. butter
2 TBS. white vinegar
1/2 c. chicken stock
salt to season
1. Several hours ahead, marinate: > 8 oz. chicken, sliced into long, narrow strips > 2 TBS. Italian dressing
2. Meanwhile, process until fairly fine: > 2 lb. chicken
4. Steam (or microwave) until tender: > 1 carrot, peeled, sliced into long strips (like French Fries)
5. Set cooked carrot aside. Line 9×5″ loaf pan with ham: > 4 oz. thin-sliced ham
6. Assemble terrine. On top of ham, add: > Half of processed chicken/herb/egg white mix
7. Next, make a thin layer of spinach, adding: > 2 oz. fresh spinach
8. For next layer, lay strips of carrot across loaf, filling in spaces with the marinated strips of chicken: > The julienned strips of carrot > The strips of chicken
9. Top that with: > Remaining chicken/herb/egg white mix
10. Finally, on top, add: > 5 bay leaves
11. Set loaf pan in a pan of water. Weight the terrine with something like another loaf pan, set on top, filled with some water. Bake in 275 degree oven for 2 hours. Chill overnight, slice and serve cold or warm. Serve with Bearnaise Sauce if desired, on a bed on steamed spinach.
Easy Bearnaise Sauce
1. The sauce can be made in a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan. But it’s extra easy to use the microwave. In microwaveable bowl, stir well: > 2 egg yolks
2. In another bowl, microwave 1-2 minutes, until hot: > 1/4 c. butter > 2 TBS. white vinegar > 1/2 c. chicken stock > salt to season
3. Stir heated butter/stock/vinegar mixture into the beaten egg, mixing while pouring. Microwave the whole mix again for 10 seconds. Take out and stir again, microwaving 10 seconds at a time, again as necessary until sauce thickens. Don’t microwave it for long, or it will curdle. If desired, microwave on low setting to warm slightly before serving.
Holiday entertaining is not over yet. This was an easy dish we made for one of our women’s Christmas dinners at church. Of course we had to make a mass quantity for two hundred and forty! This is a scaled-down version to serve a smaller crowd
Brine chicken for optimum flavor; herbs are steeped in boiling water, with sugar and salt. After brine cools, chicken is added, soaking up flavors overnight, making it easy, no-fuss to bake on serving day. Serves 8-10.
2 c. water, boiled
1 TBS. Italian Herbs
1 TBS. salt
1 TBS. sugar
2 c. cold water
4 lb. chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
2 c. chicken stock (use juices from cooked chicken also, as part of the stock)
2 c. white wine
1 TBS. minced garlic
3 TBS. olive oil
3 TBS. butter
12-oz. bag frozen artichoke hearts (or less), OR, 14-oz. can artichokes, packed in water
1/3 c. sun-dried tomatoes
3 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. salt, if needed
1. A day ahead, prepare brine for the chicken by bringing to a boil: > 2 c. water
2. Turn off heat, add: > 1 TBS. Italian Herbs > 1 TBS. salt > 1 TBS. sugar
3. Add to mix, refrigerating until completely cooled: > 2 c. cold water
4. When brine has cooled, add: 4 lb. boneless chicken thighs
5. Refrigerate chicken in the brine overnight.
6. To prepare dish, bake chicken in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, until done. Meanwhile, make sauce: Boil the liquid until reduced by about half: > 2 c. chicken stock > 2 c. white wine
7. Add to reduced juices: > approx. 3 TBS. butter > approx. 3 TBS. olive oil > 1 TBS. minced garlic > artichoke hearts > 1/3 c. sun-dried tomatoes > 3 green onions, chopped > 1 tsp. salt
8. Simmer the sauce ingredients, letting garlic steep, until chicken’s ready. Pour over chicken; serve with polenta, rice, or pasta.
Glad I had taken notes last Christmas season, when experimenting with healthier ingredients for traditional cookie recipes. This one had been a hit. So I just made more again last night. The biggest challenge will be saving them for when we’re entertaining guests!
I was getting into the holiday spirit, looking up Christmas Cookie recipes that I might make. Of course I was also hoping to tweak a recipe, to make it just a little healthier.
I discovered a few things: 1) Leave the traditional “Russian Tea Cake” recipe alone! I subbed whole wheat flour for all-purpose, and coconut palm sugar for confectioner’s sugar. Wondering if I could “powder” some palm sugar, I processed some of it in my Vitamix, to roll the fresh-baked cookies in. Of course they turned out more like “Spice Balls” or “Mud Balls”, being brown in color. They just didn’t fit in with my Christmas theme!
Discovery 2) Springerle might turn out if they don’t get over-cooked. And aren’t made with brown ingredients! I again had subbed whole wheat flour and palm sugar for the white ingredients. The dough rolled out just fine using the special rolling pin that embosses the dough with a cute design. I left them overnight to air-dry, as per instructions, baking them Christmas Eve morning. But I could hardly recognize that they were getting overdone—when brown gets browner, one might not notice! So the Springerle cookies got over-cooked, and were almost hard as rock. Yes, they were cute brown, embossed squares…cute for a dog bisquit, that is!
Discovery 3) Almond Orange Biscotti is actually pretty good made with the whole wheat flour and palm sugar. A touch of anise seed adds a nice, Italian-style flavor, and they keep well, to serve up on any occasion when guests may drop by. Great with tea! The following recipe makes around 16 slices.
1/2 c. butter
2/3 c. palm sugar
2 tsp. orange zest (preferable from organic orange)
1 tsp. anise seed (or orange zest)
1 c. plus 2 TBS. whole wheat flour (or 1 c. all-purpose)
1/2 c. blanched almonds (whole or slivered)
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Oil and flour a 9×5” loaf pan. Beat butter, eggs and sugar on high for 8 minutes or so, until light. Use: > 1/2 c. butter > 2 eggs > 2/3 c. palm sugar
2. Stir in remaining ingredients: > 2 tsp. orange zest > 1 tsp. anise seed > 1 c. plus 2 TBS. fresh-ground flour (or 1 c. all-purpose) > 1/2 c. blanched almonds (whole or slivered)
3. Pour into the oiled, floured pan; it will be about half full. Bake for 20 minutes or so at 375 degrees. Toothpick inserted in center will come out clean when it’s done.
4. Remove loaf from pan and slice into sixteen 1/2” slices. Bake on parchment (or oiled cookie sheet) for 5 minutes.
5. Turn cookies over and bake 5 minutes more, until slightly browned on sides. Turn oven off and leave in for 5-10 minutes longer, if desired, to get cookies a bit crisper.
6. Optional: Dip in melted chocolate. Serve with coffee or tea!
I just made these for a fancy, four-course New Deli Dinner Party. Wow, they were a hit! Yes, scallops are a bit pricey, but aren’t they worth it on special occasions?!
Large scallops make these especially succulent. Small scallops can often be rubbery but the large ones seem to be juicer and tender.
The recipe isn’t too complicated; the tricky part is to cook the bacon until just soft and slightly browned in parts. Then it is perfect to roll the scallops up with. Makes 10-20 pieces (depending on size of scallops), serving 5-10 people.
12 oz. medium thick bacon
1 lb. scallops (of the “10-20 pc. per pound” size)
1/2 pt. Cherry Tomatoes
Fresh Basil, Spinach, or other Herbs
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grill bacon just until slightly golden but still quite soft. Set aside. Use: > 12 oz. bacon
2. Drain fat out of pan. Using same pan, turn on high; add five or so scallops at a time to hot pan. After browning on one side, turn scallops over, turning pan off and letting scallops cook about five minutes more. Use: > 1 lb. large-sized scallops
3. Repeat this process, getting pan good and hot before adding scallops, so they will brown nicely. Brown one side, turn over, turn pan off, and let sit in pan again to cook until almost done.
4. Prep veggies. Cut cherry tomatoes in half; use one half per scallop. Pull off leaves of fresh basil (or cilantro, spinach, or whatever else is on hand). Cut leaves into strips if they’re large. Use: > 1/2 pt. cherry tomatoes > Fresh basil (or other fresh herb, or spinach)
5. To put appetizers together, wrap a slice of the cooked bacon around each scallop. Top with basil and tomato, adhering all of it together with a toothpick. Depending on size of scallop, this may take a half slice (or up to almost a whole slice) of bacon per scallop.
6. Put prepared Scallop Wraps on foil and bake in 375 degree oven until hot and cooked through, about 10 more minutes.
“”…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross…”
Every Christmas, my husband gets the lights going on the cross he made at our back fence. My husband’s a rather quiet, subdued guy, if you don’t know him. I always think it is so cool that, despite what could be perceived as a lack of emotion, he has such a sweet heart. His wife didn’t suggest this project for him, and there was no pressure to “keep up with the Jones'”… he just wanted to put a cross out there, to help us all remember what Christmas is really about.
Then spring comes, and the fig tree that serves as a backdrop for that cross starts filling up with leaves. By summer, from the inner yard, you would never even know a cross was there.
Isn’t that so much like our lives? The busyness of any given season might crowd out the view of that cross. But when all is barren, in the quiet, dark times of our souls, we can look out and remember the cross. Christmas lights adorn the makeshift cross in our back yard, but the true light of Jesus adorns the cross that He was on. A perfect reminder indeed, of what this season is about!
Wallpaper: Desktop Backgrounds w/Verses
I’ve shared a few full-size pics below, if you happen to want to put some Christmas desktop wallpaper on your computer/laptop/whatever. Just click on the images to view (left click on appropriate monitor size, then right click and choose “set as desktop background”).
(I don’t put the full-size pictures on this page, or the page would take too long to load, since the file’s kind of large.)
This is an elegant recipe, perfect to serve at a dinner party. Although preparing this dish is typically a more elaborate process, the method is streamlined here.The main secret to a tender dish that is cooked through is to pound the chicken breast out thin. It is then rolled up with a thin slice of ham, Swiss cheese, and a few toppings, and baked.
“Seasoned oat flour” keeps this dish gluten-free, although one can substitute bread crumbs for a more traditional preparation. (See note at bottom of recipe.) Serves 8.
2 TBS. rolled oats*
1/2 tsp. sea salt*
1/2 tsp. sage*
1 tsp. onion flakes*
2 lb. chicken breast
1/3 lb. thin-sliced ham (or prosciutto)
8 oz. grated or thin-sliced Swiss cheese total (divided)
Parsley, chopped, for garnish
1. Make a seasoned “oat flour”, then set aside. For that, process until fine in a blender or food processor: > 2 TBS. rolled oats > 1/2 tsp. sea salt > 1/2 tsp. sage > 1 tsp. onion flakes
2. Butter or oil the bottom of a baking dish (approx. 15×11”).
3. Cut the chicken breast into portion sizes. Two pounds will make about eight 4-ounce servings. Use: > 2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
4. Slip chicken breasts into a sturdy plastic bag to pound (which makes for easier clean-up). Pound each piece with a meat mallet; flatten to about 1/4-inch.
5. Set eight small pieces of Swiss cheese aside for topping. (Or about a third of the total.) On top of the chicken, layer ham, then Swiss cheese. Use: > 1/3 lb. thin-sliced ham > Approx. 5-6 oz. thin-sliced (or grated) Swiss cheese (reserving some)
6. Roll each piece up and place in baking dish, large enough for the rolled-up chicken to fit in without squishing, but without much space between each piece. This way, it will cook through but won’t dry out.
7. Sprinkle the seasoned oat flour on top of the chicken, then top with remaining Swiss cheese.
8. Bake at 375 degrees about 20 minutes, until cheese is nicely melted and chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
* For a more traditional version, substitute 1 c. bread crumbs for the oats, salt, sage and dried onion. Each portion of chicken/ham/Swiss then gets rolled in the bread crumbs and browned in some oil in a pan before baking for 20 minutes more.