Coconut Chai Sipping Chocolate

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Winter has officially arrived in my neck of the woods. It’s 24 degrees with an expected high of only 28 today. The wind is howling. We had a gorgeous, hot summer and a fabulously mild fall, so lets hope that this winter is a true winter and brings lots and lots of snow.

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For the last couple of months I’ve been allowing myself what I consider a very indulgent treat at Starbuck’s. A soy Chai Tea Latte. Indulgent because it has caffeine which my body doesn’t like and non-organic soy which is terrible for pretty much anyone…along with a HEAP of refined sugar and God only knows what else.

*It was brought to my attention by my sweet friend, Megan, after I posted this, that Starbuck’s actually does use non-GMO, organic soy. Ten points for Starbucks!

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But it’s those spices that just make me swoon.  They are so comforting and calming. I don’t know what it is about them, they just speak to me.

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After my last one started to make me feel wired and made my stomach very unhappy, I realized my love affair with Starbuck’s Chai was going to have to end. It was an inevitable breakup, but fun while it lasted.

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Luckily, Chai spices are easy to come by and it’s very easy to whip up your own mix to add to whatever you like. This morning I woke with a headache. The result of Romeo, our 75 pound Vizsla, running right into my head while I was laying on the floor in front of the fire last night. He can often be like a goofy, uncoordinated toddler. My neck cracked and this morning I was greeted with an 80 year old neck rather than my already touchy and grouchy 46 year old neck.  Not a pleasant way to greet the day. It was also freezing, and the first thing to come to my mind was not BenGay, ibuprofen and water…but “oh I wish I had a hot chai tea latte and a robe warmer”…and a personal masseuse.

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Then I remembered what I felt like the last time my lover and I got together and figured that probably wouldn’t be all that fun to add hyper nerves and gut wrenching tummy pain to the headache and neck ache I was already dealing with. Sorry Starbuck’s, but really, it’s not you, it’s me.

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Then came the birth of my Coconut Chai Sipping Chocolate. Right there in bed where some of my best recipe ideas are born. Amazing the clarity you have when you kick those toxic lovers out of your life.

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And I don’t mind telling you that it is amazing. Have you ever had a sipping chocolate? It’s rich, velvety, and fabulous. The chai spices give it that soothing aroma and taste and take something rather ordinary like chocolate and coconut and make it into a very special sipping event.

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For those of you who do not feel like you’re going to jump out of your skin after drinking coffee, I would bet a shot of espresso in this would make you even happier.

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This recipe serves 2. Remember it is very rich. But if you don’t feel like sharing, you can pour the other half into a pretty little jar and take it to work with you for an afternoon pick me up. It can be re-heated and served hot, or chilled and then served over ice.

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Enjoy!

Chai Spice Mix

1 Small Jar

3 teaspoons of Turmeric

4 teaspoons of Cardamom

4 teaspoons of Cloves

4 teaspoons of Allspice

8 teaspoons of Cinnamon

6 teaspoons of Ginger

Measure all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together until combined. Spoon into a storage jar.

Coconut Chai Sipping Chocolate

1 Can of Full Fat Organic Coconut Milk

3 Ounces of 70% Dark Belgian Chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Organic Raw Unfiltered Honey

1 teaspoon of Chai Spice Mix, plus more for sprinkling

Measure all ingredients into a medium saucepan. Heat on medium and whisk until chocolate is completely melted and ingredients are combined. Split between two mugs (or save some for later!) and sprinkle with extra Chai Spice Mix.

Coconut Milk Kefir Smoothie

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I have fallen in love with making my own coconut milk kefir and yogurt.

I’m addicted.

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I don’t know why, but it’s extremely satisfying and fun! You can bake with it, put it in smoothies, eat and drink it plain, and it’s extremely good for you.

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Just watching it transform from one thing into another is like performing your own science experiments at home.

I guess it satisfies the nerd in me.

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There are numerous ways to make the kefir or yogurt.

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You can warm it with your oven light, put it on a heating pad in a cooler, let it sit on a heat register…but I found this yogurt maker on Amazon. It makes making the kefir and yogurt so easy! And it was only $24.99, so very affordable.

This morning we used some of the coconut milk kefir in our smoothie. Delicious!

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I’ll post my Vanilla Coconut Yogurt recipe in a few days. It’s just as easy to make as the coconut milk kefir with only a few small adjustments.

Tony arrived home last night!

Tails are no longer tucked under, ears are perky, and wife is happy. We are off to walk the dogs.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend!

One of the bushes we planted a couple of months ago. Love the Fall colors!

One of the bushes we planted a month ago. Love the Fall colors!

Coconut Milk Kefir

42 ounces of Organic, BPA Free, Canned Full Fat Coconut Milk

1 1/2 High Quality Probiotic Capsules

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Medicnal Honey

*Yogurt Maker

Place all ingredients in an extra large measuring cup with pouring spout. Whisk thoroughly until honey is completely dissolved. Pour evenly into warming cups. Cover and let warm for 8 hours. Poor from small cups into large container and refrigerate overnight before using.

Kefir Smoothie

Serves 2-4 (The 2 of us drink the whole thing as a meal)

2 Cups of Coconut Milk Kefir

1 Large Handful of Organic Baby Spinach

1 Organic Banana

2 Organic Carrots

2 Stalks of Organic Celery

1 Small Organic Apple

1 Cup of Frozen Organic Blueberries

Juice of 1 Organic Lemon

2 Tablespoons of Organic Raw Chia Seeds

2 Tablespoons of Organic Raw Pumpkin Seeds

1 Tablespoon of Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

1 Tablespoon of Organic Ground Cinnamon

1 Tablespoon of Organic Ground Turmeric

1/2 Tablespoon of Organic Ground Ginger

Coconut Water, for thinning (About 1 Cup)

Ice (About 1 1/2 Cups)

Place all ingredients except coconut water and ice in blender and blend until smooth. Add coconut water to thin, add ice for a chill and blend thoroughly.

A Little Story of Love & Some Kick Ass Flatbread Crackers and Dip

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Both of the dogs are depressed. Tails are tucked under, ears are floppy, and there has been a lot of napping and sighing going on.

Tony took a flight out of town last night and is now in full work and travel mode.

The dogs have done nothing but mope around and look at me like, “Where is he and when is he coming back?”

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I think I may be a little depressed about the whole thing too. It’s a bittersweet kind of thing, I suppose.

I believe he left his job in New Hampshire sometime in March and then only physically worked for the company here for about a month before being laid off.

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That means that we have been able to spend about 9 months of true, quality time together. It’s only been one day and I miss our time together already.

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That’s the most consecutive time we’ve spent together without him having to travel out of town in the entire 23 years we’ve been married.

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I’m thankful we didn’t allow the stress of it to gobble us up. We didn’t end up resenting one another’s presence and getting on each other’s nerves…too much. You hear that a lot about couples who lose their jobs or retire.

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We’ve even had people say it to us when we’ve told them about our life over the last year, “Oh good, and you’re still together”, they say.  Tony’s answer to that is, “Well, I’m an exceptional husband.”

Which always gets a good snicker of course.

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This time we’ve had has made me look forward even more to retirement. It was something I actually thought about in the past. “Will we like spending all that time together when he retires?” “Will he drive me nuts?” “What will we do?”

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I can tell you I wasn’t bored one time during the last 9 months. We found all kinds of enjoyable stuff to do together and there were only a few tense moments. Those moments were really only due to the fact that he makes noise and watches TV more than I do. Prior to him being off work for so long, I was used to a very quiet house. Evidently I have plenty of noise going on in my head without adding anything to it.

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Overall I think we are better off after this time spent together. In fact, our relationship is stronger than ever. That’s saying something after being together for a total of 26 years…that a marriage can get even better.

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Even when there’s mass quantities of stress and frustrations that are seemingly out of our control. In my mind, in a world full of divorce and all kinds of issues, the fact that a relationship can continue to grow and strengthen after 26 years just seems like a massive blessing.

We’ve definitely put the “T” in Teamwork over the past couple of years. We’ve had a lot of career stress, major extended family issues, and I’ve had and continue to have a battle with Lyme Disease. Even one of those circumstances happening would make the strongest of folks wobble at least a little.

We’ve faced them all at once.

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What I cherish and wish I would remember at the beginning of every stressful season of life, because there will be more…is that when you’re coming out the other side of it and you can look back…not only did you live through it which is celebration enough, but in so many ways you’re better for it.

That’s like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. As if the rainbow after the storm wasn’t beautiful enough!

So although it’s easy to whine about how I wish I didn’t have a traveling husband and many other things, there’s been so much positive to come out of these 2 years of complete and absolute craziness that I never expected, it’s hard to complain too much because I just really feel so incredibly thankful.

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Thankful for a working, loving, husband and friend. Thankful that I have Romeo and Abigail to mope around with me. Thankful that we’re back in town and 1.5  miles from my mom and our son instead of 2,700 miles away.  Thankful that we took some incredible leaps of faith. Thankful that we made some unbelievably tough decisions. Thankful that even when some issues aren’t resolved there’s still plenty of good pouring over into each day. Thankful for the joy I get from food blogging and hearing from all of you.  Thankful as I sit here in my cozy little library and office that’s just for me. Thankful that as I look out the window I’m being presented right this minute with yet another amazing and beautiful sunset that is filling the sky with bright reds and pinks. And mostly really, I’m just thankful that I have the ability to recognize a blessing and that I have so many, I can’t count them all.

“Blessed is he who is not offended that no man receives what he deserves…blessed is he who gets that joke, who sees that miracle.” ~ Buechner

Herbed Flatbread Crisps

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 Box of Chebe Foccacia Mix

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Chives, snipped

2 teaspoons of Fresh Rosemary, snipped

1 1/2 teaspoons of Fresh Thyme Leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons of Garlic Powder

1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds

3/4 teaspoons of Sea Salt

6 Grinds of Fresh Pepper

1 Egg

3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup of Unsweetened Hemp Milk

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a baking sheet. Mix all ingredients together with a fork in a medium bowl until combined. Knead with hand until smooth. Roll out thinly on the parchment to fit as much of the cut parchment as possible. Slide the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet. Bake (I use convection) for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before tearing or cutting into pieces.

Sundried Tomato & Spinach Bean Spread

1 15 oz. can of Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

1 Cup of Baby Spinach, packed

2 Large Garlic Cloves, peeled

2 Tablespoons of Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle 

5 Sun Dried Tomatoes in Oil

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

8 Grinds of Pepper

Juice of 1 Fresh Lemon

3/4 Cup of Avocado Oil

Place all ingredients except avocado oil  in food processor. Pulse about 20 times until ingredients are chopped. Turn on High and slowly drizzle the avocado into the mixture. Continue mixing on High for 2 minutes. 

Smoky Honey Habanero Chicken & Apple Cabbage Salad

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The evenings are getting shorter and I’m running out of photography light. I’m going to have to start getting creative. In the past I’ve researched lighting equipment and the “how-to’s” for making my own light boxes. But because I do this blog purely for fun and relaxation, I hate to get too serious about such things.

As we head into winter, you may have to endure some drab photography until I find my lighting sweet spot in this house.

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I bought three types of Spiceologist rubs from our local farmer’s market this summer. Smoky Honey Habanero, Raspberry Chipotle, and Greek Freak.

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I’ve used all but the Raspberry Chipotle, and although I think they are lacking in flavor just on their own, they’re quite good with a few simple additions.

Coat chicken pieces with olive oil, season well with sea salt and Bragg's Organic Sprinkle. Coat both sides of the chicken generously with the Smoky Honey Habanero rub. Wait for the olive oil to absorb it and repeat. Finish with another generous seasoning of sea salt.

Coat chicken pieces with olive oil, season both sides well with sea salt and Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle. Coat both sides of the chicken generously with the Smoky Honey Habanero rub. Wait for the olive oil to absorb it and repeat. Finish with another generous sprinkle of sea salt.

The sweet and tangy salad balanced out the hot and spicy flavors of the chicken very well.

Sliced red cabbage, chopped apple, diced onion, sunflower seeds, and raisins.

Sliced red cabbage, chopped apple, diced red onion, sunflower seeds, and raisins.

1/2 Cup of olive oil mayo, juice of 1 fresh lemon, 2 generous pinches of coconut sugar, several grinds of pepper.

1/2 Cup of olive oil mayo, juice of 1 fresh lemon, 2 generous pinches of coconut sugar, several grinds of pepper. Whisk until combined.

Thinly slice a half a head of red cabbage. Core and chop one small apple, and dice about 2 1/2 Tablespoons of red onion.

Thinly slice a half a head of red cabbage. Core and chop one small apple, and dice about 2 1/2 Tablespoons of red onion. Add it all to a large mixing bowl along with 2 Tablespoons of sunflower seeds, 2 Tablespoons of raisins, and toss well to coat with dressing. Spoon into a serving bowl and chill in refrigerator while chicken grills.

Heat grill to 300 degrees and grill chicken bone side down for 20 minutes.

Heat grill to 300 degrees and grill chicken bone side down for 20 minutes with lid closed.

Move chicken pieces to the middle of the grill skin side down, or wherever your grill is protected from the flame. Increase heat to 350 degrees. Grill for another 10-12 minutes or until skin is crisp.

Move chicken pieces to the middle of the grill skin side down, or wherever your grill is protected from the flame. Increase heat to 350 degrees. Grill for another 10-12 minutes or until skin is crisp. If you get too much flame up, grill with lid open and increase cooking time.

A very simple dinner with amazing flavors. We loved the balance of the hot and spicy chicken with the sweet and tangy salad.

Stuffed & Grilled Pork Tenderloin

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We had a bit of a catastrophe last night…

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We went grocery shopping, then out to dinner.

What’s so horrible about that you might ask?

Well, when we got home our son was here. He and I had purchased a special gift for Tony as a “back to work surprise”.

Still not seeing what is such a catastrophe, right?

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Brandon greeted us at the door and we all went in the house.

I was distracted, and Tony was distracted…and Brandon had no idea we had groceries in the back of the car, so even though he has a young, vibrant brain, he didn’t know to remind us.

We all visited and looked at Tony’s gift and enjoyed our time together.

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Brandon left, I headed to the bathtub with a book, and Tony went to bed to watch a bit of sports.

Not even an inkling that something was amiss.

Nothing.

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At 6:00 AM this morning, it suddenly occurred to me.

Oh no. No, no, no! We didn’t! 

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Yes we did.

I was mortified.

What was even more mortifying was that evidently my short-term memory is shot because I couldn’t even remember what perishables we had purchased as I bolted into the garage. I was thinking, “just vegetables, right??”

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But trust me, it all came screaming back to me as I un-bagged the groceries.

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Organic eggs and several types of organic meat. Along with a not so cheap dairy free cheese.

All thrown into the garbage.

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Normally, I would have probably just put it all in the freezer and not worried about it, minus the eggs of course. But we are having unseasonably hot weather and even our garage stays steamy.

I just couldn’t do it. It was all very warm. 

The last thing we need is food poisoning.

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So off to the store I went… again… to purchase the same perishable items. Scolding myself for being so ridiculously and easily distracted the entire time I was shopping.

I even tattled on myself to the cashier. Who was like 12 of course, and really didn’t see the absolute horror in throwing away very expensive, organic items. 

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Such a waste in so many ways.

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Sigh.

Lesson learned. 

Stuffed & Grilled Pork Tenderloin

1 Pork Tenderloin, organic if you can find it (which more often than not, splits in two loins upon opening)

About 1 Cup of Chopped Organic Spinach

About 1/4 Cup Chopped Organic Red Onion

About 4-5 Organic Crimini Mushrooms, Chopped

2 Large Organic Cloves of Garlic, Diced

About 1/2 Cup of Goat or Sheep’s Milk Cheese Grated or Crumbled, use your favorite

Organic Olive Oil

Himalayan Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle

Skewers (lots)

Butterfly the tenderloin pieces. Mine ended up being kind of a disaster, they were not cooperative. Chop and dice the vegetables and garlic. Layer on top of the tenderloin. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper generously. Sprinkle grated cheese on top. If you’re able to roll your tenderloin, roll it closed and secure with the skewers. I wasn’t able to so I just closed mine up like a taco, worked fine. Drizzle with more olive oil, season again generously with salt and pepper and the Bragg seasoning.

Heat grill to 375 degrees and grill until done.  About 10 minutes on each side. I like mine pink (or medium rare), you can grill it longer of course, but not too long!

Remove from grill. Let it rest about 10 minutes and slice. Serve with roasted, seasoned, potatoes.

 

Week In Review

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Monday is here again!

I hope last week went well and your weekend was peaceful, fruitful, and relaxing…as all weekends should be!

A hike in the hills behind our house.

A hike in the hills behind our house.

Our week was a bit hectic with this’s and that’s, Tony traveling here and there for interviews, and a couple of days of us both feeling under the weather. But we still managed to make the most of it.

Friday night we had breakfast for dinner...because bacon is fabulous any time of day.

Friday night we had breakfast for dinner…because bacon is fabulous any time of day.

We had a lovely, relaxing weekend.

Sunday morning breakfast.

Sunday morning breakfast. Sausage and egg scramble with spinach and tomatoes.

Sunday night's dinner grill.

Saturday night’s dinner grill. Grilled veggies with chicken & spinach sausages.

Mornings are getting chilly.

Abigail thinks the mornings are too chilly.

We got some fantastic Monday morning news.

 My husband has accepted an offer with a company and is now once again, employed!

Sunday night's dinner theme, "Go big or go home."

Sunday night’s dinner theme, “Go big or go home.”

It’s been a mixed blessing having Tony out of a job. You may think I’m crazy for thinking being unemployed has been a blessing.

There’s been oodles of stress of course, as we’ve been through so much change over the past three years. But on the other hand, its been an amazing experience to be given the opportunity to step off the merry-go-round and make some important decisions about what we want our lives to look like from here forward. I ran across this quote and I loved it. Because I will tell you with certainty, that no matter what kind of struggles you face, life is packed full of all kinds of blessings all day, every day.

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Tony typically travels for work, so with him home, we’ve been able to spend and incredible amount of quality time together. It has been fabulous!

There''s a big rock in the hills behind our property that he has dubbed "smoking rock". Gorgeous views.

There’s a big rock in the hills behind our property that he’s dubbed the “smoking rock”.

The biggest blessing to come out of this crazy life we’ve had for the last couple of years?

The view of our neighborhood from "smoking rock". The neighbors probably think we are looney tunes.

The view of our neighborhood from the “smoking rock”.

Time. 

The Free Dictionary calls it, “a period at one’s disposal”. And let me tell you, it’s been heavenly.

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They say you can never have more of it, but I disagree.

You have to learn to live in the moment and appreciate that experience. That’s the key to making the most of the time we’re given. Just by focusing on the moment, you create the feeling and enjoyment of more time.

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So we’ve been focused on soaking up the moments, whatever that may bring.

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Our leap of faith to make changes in our life has come back to us tenfold. Being able to focus on what is important makes for a richer, deeper, more incredible life experience. Has it been easy to make a whole heap of life changing decisions? Of course not. Life is not unicorns and rainbows, I don’t need to tell you that!

But, it has been so unbelievably rewarding in so many ways, I wouldn’t trade the stress or uncertainty for anything.

Catching up and visiting with friends.

Catching up and visiting with friends.

Soon we’ll have to get back into the swing of things and learn to manage our time differently again with Tony going back to work. But we’ll take these life lessons we’ve learned over the years and apply them for a more fruitful experience. That’s what so much of life is about. Learning. Learning to tweak and mold and fight for what you want so that you can experience the absolute best of what you’ve been given.

I’m certainly no expert on life, but if I had to give one piece of advice it would be this:

No matter what, take that leap of faith.

My two favorite men in the entire world.

My two favorite men in the entire world.

We’re looking forward to what the next chapter will bring!

Many blessings to you in the week ahead.

~ April

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An Attempt At Coconut Milk Yogurt

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Last week I found this yogurt maker on Amazon for $24.99.

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There’s all kinds of ways to make your own yogurt at home, you don’t necessarily have to have a yogurt maker. You can use your oven light or a cooler with a heating pad. But both of those methods didn’t appeal to me and when I realized I could purchase a yogurt maker for such an inexpensive price, I figured, why not.

Good, dairy free grocery store yogurt is difficult to come by. There are do-able brands like the So Delicious Greek Style Yogurt made with coconut milk and the Amande brand made with almond milk. While both of those are tasty, neither one of them have a real yogurt consistency and they are loaded with refined sugar and additives.

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It’s definitely worth it to make your own organic yogurt where you control the sugar and additive content. Making yogurt out of non-dairy milks can be a challenge though. I did the research and there are several methods and all kinds of advice. I wanted it to be as pure as possible so I just added the coconut milk, medicinal honey, and one and a half very high quality probiotic capsules. I take that probiotic daily, so it was convenient to use. If you need to purchase a probiotic for yogurt making (I think that’s the easiest way) make sure you do your research and choose high quality.

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The milk needs bacteria to ferment and the bacteria needs sugar to eat and grow.

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 I read the simple directions to figure out the quantity of milk I needed, did some research on the internet to try to figure out a good balance between honey and probiotics and I was off to a good start.

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You just mix all the ingredients together, pour them in the glass jars (after washing them of course), put the lid on, turn the machine on, and let it sit for 8-12 hours. I let mine sit for 12.

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The first thing I noticed after the 12 hours was that the cream had separated to the top.

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I could tell that even if I shook it that the cream on top wasn’t thick enough to compensate for all of the liquid on bottom.

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So I did a bit more research on “coconut milk separation” and decided to add a bit of gelatin, which I probably should have added at the beginning of the process. Not knowing how much was too much, I just added a little pinch to each jar, gave it a very good shake (1 minute each to dissolve the gelatin), and placed them in the fridge overnight.

By the way, gelatin is excellent for the gut, joints, hair, and nails.

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Looked promising when I put them in the fridge…

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By mid day the next day they had solidified more than the night before, but still not enough to become yogurt. I shook them again a few times and left them for one more day.

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A little improvement but not much. I should have been more generous with the gelatin, but was afraid it would end up too gelantinous.

But all was not lost!

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I ended up with a batch of fabulous fermented coconut milk to drink and use in smoothies. Whether it’s solidified in the form of yogurt or not, it’s still excellent for your health. We made vegetable fruit smoothies with some of the fermented milk this morning and they were delicious.

This weekend I’ll try a different brand of organic coconut milk and also increase the gelatin amount.

I’ll let you know how it goes!