Elderberry Syrup

As I often do, I adapted this recipe from several different ones and with input from several different people.

My friend, Randi, helped me find a substitute for a lower-carb, less sugar version. She also guided me in the brand of organic elderberries to use.

I followed this recipe from Wellness Mama, fairly closely. The measurements of the base ingredients and then added aniseed and used cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon.

Anyway, here’s what I did and it tastes delicious! For health benefits, recommended shelf-life and recommended daily dosages of this immunity-boosting syrup, I will hand you over to google. The Wellness Mama post also has very helpful information and if you followed her recipe, I know it would be perfect.

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup dried elderberries (or 1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen)
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 tsp aniseed
2 Tbsp chopped or grated ginger (grated will release more flavor)

1 cup raw honey (or 2/3 cup natural keto sweetener – my friend, Randi, recommends this one because it dissolves better than monk fruit and others she has tried.)

Directions:
Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until the liquid reduces by about half.

Remove from heat and let cool to just above room temperature.

Pour through a strainer into a glass bowl. Press the berries to get all the juice.

Toss the mashed elderberry mixture and let the liquid cool a bit more.

Add the honey (or natural sweetener) in while the mixture is still lukewarm (not too hot so you don’t cook out the health properties of the honey) and stir until well-blended (or dissolved).

Pour the finished syrup into a 16 oz. mason jar or glass container.

Store in refrigerator.

Elderberry Syrup Andrea Stunz

Leone’s Lentil Hot Pot

I met the sweetest soul, my friend Leone, when I lived in Singapore. She’s one of the kindest humans I have ever known (I’m not exaggerating). It doesn’t hurt that she has the. most. amazing. Aussie accent that comes with the. most. amazing. smile. that comes with the. most. amazing. hugs! My time in Singapore was often met with challenges and spending time with Leone was life to my soul. If ever I needed a pick-me-up, she was my girl. We usually met over a good meal or coffee, as you do in Singapore. Good food shared with good friends is a healing balm.

She shared this recipe with me and it was an instant favorite comfort food dish. In Singapore, finding fresh pumpkin was easy but it’s not so easy in the US outside of the fall/autumn season. I’ll share her recipe below as she has given me permission to do. I’ll add my thoughts and necessary adjustments in ().

I hope you’ll try this. It’s SO easy and INCREDIBLY delicious!

Ingredients:
McCormicks Middle Eastern spice blend, (Harissa) but you could use cumin, coriander and or ginger (ground or fresh) if you wish.
2 small diced onions
2 cloves chopped garlic (or more if you’re like me and can never get enough garlic)
Olive Oil (for sauteeing)
2-3 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock if you’re going for vegetarian)
2 cups Red lentils
2 cups fresh cubed pumpkin (can use butternut squash)
2 cups cubed potatoes (can eliminate these and use extra butternut squash)
1 can diced tomatoes (can use chopped fresh tomatoes)
Salt to taste

Basmati rice (or your favorite rice option)
Cilantro/Coriander leaves for garnish

Instructions:
Brown two small chopped onions with 2 cloves garlic (or two teaspoons) in olive oil or spray the pot well with a ‘cooking/oil spray’.

Add two small teaspoons of Middle Eastern spice (Harissa) and some Turmeric or you could add a teaspoon each of cumin, ginger, and coriander.  Brown this mix stirring constantly. Do not overcook.

Add two to three cups of stock, it can be vegetable or chicken. If no actual ‘stock’ available, then use water with stock cubes.

At this point, you can transfer this mix to a ‘slow cooker’ or leave it in the stove top pot.

Add 2 cups each of red lentils, diced pumpkin, and diced potato.

Add one can of diced tomatoes. Stir well.

*If using stove top pot, stir gently and often. The lentils may stick to the bottom of the pot if you don’t. You may need to add more water at this stage too.

It will take approx 35 mins of cooking time.

If you have transferred it to a slow cooker, allow about three hours of cooking time, but at least you can go away and leave it. No need to keep stirring!

Serve with chopped fresh coriander, steamed rice, and a garden salad. Delicious!

Hope you and your family enjoy the above recipe, that I have named: Leone’s Lentil Hot Pot

Leone's Lentil Hot Pot

Photo Credit: Leone

My Granola

GranolaMy kids and those who have tasted the goodness that is “My Granola” get excited when I mention that it’s “Granola Day”. This recipe is ridiculously easy to make but it takes a long time. Therefore, it earns its own special day. Granola Day, btw, is a good time to invite people over. It makes your whole house smell divine!

I first started with this recipe from Against All Grain’s, Danielle Walker. I adapted it and do my “little bit of this, little bit of that, more of this” thing. (And that’s the recipe for making love – do you know this song by Harry Connick, Jr.? It’s one of my favorites to play when I’m cooking.) I know the “dash of this and that” method drives devout recipe followers nuts but it’s my way. So if you need a set recipe to follow, use AAG’s. It’s absolutely delicious!

You can’t go wrong with this recipe, though. Leave the basics the same but switch out the nuts, seeds, and fruits per your preference. The main thing you’ll need to pay attention to is that have a good balance between your wet ingredients and the dry ingredients.

Tips:
*I prefer to use organic, local and gluten-free ingredients as much as possible.
*This recipe makes a lot but since it takes so long to cook, it’s best to make a lot.
*Measurements for the ingredients are not precise. (My apologies to all you recipe rule followers out there.)

Dry ingredients:
6 cups of raw oats (I use one big bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats)
2 cups raw slivered/sliced almonds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 cups raw unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp sea salt

Wet ingredients:
1 cup honey
1 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsps vanilla

Add after baked and cooled:
3 cups of dried berries (I prefer cranberries, blueberries and sometimes use pomegranate).

Directions:

Clear your schedule, find a side project to work on or a good movie or two, preheat oven to 250F, 

1. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients.

2. In a separate microwave-safe bowl, melt coconut oil. Then add in remaining wet ingredients and stir together.

3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir together to make sure all dry ingredients are coated fairly well.

4. Pour entire mixture onto one very large, *parchment-lined baking pan or two smaller (but still large) baking pans.

5. Bake at 250 for 3-4 hours, turning it every 20 minutes for even browning. The time is up to you. It will depend on how brown you want it to be. The granola will a little soft but it will crisp up as it cools. (Settle into your project or movie. Set your timer! I forgot to do that once. If it weren’t for a friend coming to the rescue, I would have missed seeing Wicked at the theater because I would have had to drive home to keep my house from burning down.)

6. Stir in dried berries and cool completely.

7. Store in an airtight container.

I enjoy this most over my favorite vanilla yogurt but it’s delicious as a cereal with your favorite milk (or milk drink) or as a munchie. It makes a fabulous road trip/travel snack.

*The parchment is not necessary but if you don’t use it then be sure to coat your pan with cooking spray or something beforehand. The parchment paper will also help you not make such a mess when dumping it into your storage container afterward.

 

Texas Caviar

I’ve been making this tasty treat for almost 30 years. My friend, Kristi, introduced it to me and it became a quick favorite. I love making it because even though we don’t live close together anymore, I think of the gift of her friendship and all the life we’ve shared while I’m chopping and chomping. We’ve served this all over the world and even served it at our daughter’s wedding reception.

Besides chopping the tomatoes and olives, it’s ridiculously easy!

Texas Caviar

The measurements I listed below make a large bowl. You can half it if you’d like but I don’t advise it. You’ll have plenty to share and you’ll definitely want to share.

Finely chop and place in a large mixing bowl:

About 8-10 firm Roma tomatoes
3- 4.25 oz. cans diced black olives
1- 10 oz jar green olives (save the juice)
4 bunches green onions (use only the white portion with a little of the green)
1- 4 oz. can of diced green chiles

Mix veggies together with the olive juice saved from the jars above.
Add enough red wine vinegar to add some liquid to it.
Cover the top with a generous layer of garlic salt.

Stir. Refrigerate. Serve with tortilla chips.

In your taste testing, if it doesn’t make you want to dive in and swim in it, you might need a little more red wine vinegar and/or garlic salt.

Muddy Buddies (Puppy Chow) – The Not So Messy Way

Muddy Buddies

We’ve been making Muddy Buddies for as long as I can remember. I can’t even remember where I got the recipe but I sure am thankful for it! Holidays are not the same in our family with this sugar-coated yumminess. I made it for years and dreaded making it until I finally figured out a way to keep it from being so messy.

Plan to double the recipe. Making a double batch takes the same amount of time and it’s something you’ll want to share.

P.S. This is not calorie free but it is gluten free. 🙂

Ingredients:

1 12 oz. pkg (2 cups) semi sweet chocolate chips

1 stick butter

1 cup creamy peanut butter

9 cups (21 oz. box) rice chex cereal

3 lbs powdered sugar

Melt chocolate chips, butter and peanut butter in a microwaveable bowl. 30 seconds at a time and stir until melted.

Put the cereal in a very large bowl and pour the chocolate mixture over it. Stir gently until all cereal is coated with chocolate mixture.

A little unconventional but brilliant…  this keeps this from being incredibly messy… Pour the coated cereal in a clean, unscented trash bag. Then pour the powdered sugar in over the cereal mixture. Twist up the bag tight and carefully toss the cereal inside back and forth. You can peek inside to make sure you have enough powdered sugar to coat and add more if needed. When you’re tossing, feel around for any large clumps from the outside of the bag and break them apart. Toss a little more to make sure they get coated.

Then cut a hole in the corner of the bag and pour into your storage container(s).

Throw away the messy bag.

Enjoy! And of course, share!!

Homemade Cashew Butter

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I realize this is the millionth recipe out there for homemade cashew butter but it’s the one I like and it works for me. After trying out making it just with cashews, it worked for sure but it took an eternity. It also didn’t have much flavor at all, kind of just tasted like cashews. 🙂 Anyway, although it made good bread, delicious Coconut Flour Bread, it wasn’t good on celery so I decided to add a little honey and coconut oil. That helped speed up the process significantly and it’s tasty! Feel free to leave out the honey when making the bread if you prefer.

This is so yummy eaten  with apples or celery or by the spoonful for a quick grab ‘n go bite. It’s packed with protein and good fat so be sure to note that it’s not low fat but it is healthy.

You’ll need a food processor for this one. I don’t have a fancy one and it works just fine. It took me 47 years to buy a food processor. Not sure why because now I couldn’t live without it. Even if you got one for this recipe it would be worth it.

Throw in the food processor:

16 oz raw cashews
2 Tbsp raw unfiltered honey
2 Tbsp organic coconut oil 

Blend away. It will take a while. It will go from cashews to grains to a big lump to smaller lumps to creamy butter. The whole process takes about 30-45 minutes or so but just make sure you give your food processor frequent rest breaks to cool down.

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It makes about 2 cups of cashew butter. Store in an airtight container in your pantry just like you would regular nut butters for about a week. If it lasts that long. Enjoy!!