Best Posts of 2010: As Voted By YOU!

Just wanted to take this moment to thank all my readers for inspiring me year after year to write this blog and in turn grow as a cook! I definitely pay attention to your feedback, and it helps me to determine the direction the blog takes. So here are your favorite posts of 2010 – as determined by the number of comments!

Looks like my readers like Pancakes (especially when they are disastrous!), Eating Organic On The Cheap and Healthy and Frugal recipes! So I will make sure to keep those kinds of posts coming in the New Year!

The Incredible Edible Egg

Kitchen Disasters: Pancakes

Goat Fromage Blanc with Garbanzo Bean Crackers

Creamy Tomato Soup and 7 Things

Eating Organic On The Cheap

Nourishing and Comforting Shepard’s/ Cottage Pie (less than $3 a serving)

Aebleskiver: Danish Pancakes

Homemade Lacto-Fermented Condiments

Food Preservation: My Life As A Squirrel

Have Food Will Travel

Safe & Happy New Year to all of you!

Yule 2010 – Christmas Dinner

This year we weren’t dreaming of a White Christmas, we were having one! We have had snow on the ground for the past month or so, and although it wasn’t snowing on Christmas, it was beautiful, picturesque and quaint here on the homestead. Perfect for my mom who is visiting from Florida and hasn’t had a White Christmas for several years.

Although I don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, many people we know do, so we incorporate it into the 12 Days of Yule which begin on December 20th and ends on January 1st. The twelve days of Yule kicks off on December 20th, the night before the solstice, with Mother’s Night where we celebrate the divine feminine and our long line of female ancestors. I like to spend this night baking cookies and preparing foods that were dear to my ancestors, celebrating the long line of people who have contributed to making me who I am. This year I made Pfeffernusse Shortbread cookies to honor my newly found German heritage.

We always celebrate December 24th by setting out an offering of cookies and milk or eggnog for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.
On December 25th we often have another feast dinner, a feast to share with family, having the same intensity of fanfare are the feast we have on the Winter Solstice. This year we had lamb. I have never been a fan of the Christmas Ham, and it has only been a few weeks since our last turkey feast. So for our own household tradition, we have lamb on this night.

This year’s lamb was a very special dish – it came from a lamb that Roberto and I butchered this fall. Since moving to Vermont we have bought meat very differently. We either buy whole animals locally or join farm meat CSAs. We have in our storage freezer, half a lamb, parts of a pig as well as beef, veal and poultry from our monthly CSA. This should get us through the winter, happy and deeply nourished.
For Christmas dinner we prepared the leg of lamb. I marinated it in a mixture of red wine, balsamic vinegar, yogurt, lemon juice and rosemary. I prepared it in my tagine and made a layer of fresh lemon slices on top. It was slow cooked at 350 F for 2 hours. Then I took the lid off to allow it to brown for about 15 minutes. We served it au jus. It was absolutely simple and the lamb was incredibly juicy and succulent.

We served it with glazed carrots and a brown rice risotto with fresh cranberries, wilted spinach, goat cheese and toasted pine nuts.
It was a wonderful evening spent with family. Hope that all of my readers who celebrate the winter holidays are having a most wondrous time with your dear ones!

Wishing you all health, happiness and love this coming year – and of course full bellies!

Holiday Baking Series: Pfeffernusse Shortbread (Gluten, Sugar and Egg Free)

So now that I am in the habit of revealing my secrets to you, I will tell you another one. I believe in Santa. Ever since I was a little girl I have baked special cookies for him. I also leave carrots for the Reindeer, but that is another story. I am not kidding. You may all think I have gone crazy, but really, the magic of this time of year has always been with me. It is a time when many people return to a more childlike way of being – snuggling into warm blankets, eating special treats, and enjoying quiet entertainment and time with family and friends.

I have always loved spice cookies. They are not overly sweet, and usually made up of nuts as well as flour. This year I have really gotten into making shortbread. A good friend of mine shared his recipe with me, when he brought buckwheat shortbread to our housewarming party.

Using that recipe as a base, I decided to spice it up by using almond meal and adding traditional Pfeffernusse spices to it. Pfeffernusse means “pepper nut” in German and refers to the fact that most recipes contain ground pepper. Pfeffernusse is in the Lebkuchen or Gingerbread family of cookies, which dates back to the 12th Century. Gingerbread is based on Teutonic honeycakes. There are also versions of these pepper nut cookies in Scandinavia and The Netherlands.

I spent the evening of the Winter Solstice staying up to see the Lunar Eclipse baking these cookies.

These cookies are a traditional cookie for this time of year. German lore tells us that Santa Claus places these cookies in the shoes of all good children during the feast of Sinterklaas which has its roots in various pagan customs of the holiday stemming from areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and retained elements of their indigenous traditions, surviving in various forms into modern depictions of Sinterklaas.

So you can just say that I am returning the favor.

INGREDIENTS:

8 oz almond meal*
4 oz gluten free oat flour
4 oz date sugar (or just 4 oz dried dates pulverized)
1 TBS Pfeffernusse Spice Blend: freshly ground: ¼ tsp each: tellicherry peppercorns and cardamom, 1 star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger
8 oz butter (use the absolute best quality you can find. I use Vermont Butter & Cheese)

*to make your own almond meal, soak almonds in water overnight and then grind in food processor

METHOD:

Using a food processor, grind almonds, or use almond meal. Pulse in oat flour, dates (or date sugar) and Pfeffernusse spice blend until well blended. Then pulse in the butter, broken up into chunks. Pulse until the ingredients come together to form a batter.

Option 1. To make the stars, refrigerate dough for about an hour so butter hardens and is easier to handle. After an hour take dough out and press it out until about an inch thick. Then cut out into shapes and place on a cookie sheet to bake.

Option 2. Immediately roll dough into little balls using your hands and bake.

In a 375 F oven bake for about 20 – 30 minutes or until edges are browned.

Traditionally Pfeffernusse are rolled in powdered sugar. If you wish to do this you can make your own by placing maple sugar or evaporated cane juice into a grinder and grinding until powdered. See A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa for a tutorial (and another great cookie recipe).

Celebrating Yule (Jul, Jule, Winter Solstice)

I can be honest with all of you, my dear readers, right? I mean food blogging is all about sharing recipes, cultures and traditions, right? Well I would like to share with you some of my food traditions for this time of year, which are a bit personal.

I celebrate Yule. Yule is the ancient celebration of the Winter Solstice, which generally falls between December 21-23. I am Pagan. Which means I have my own rich traditions for this deeply special and sacred time of year.

Winter Solstice has been celebrated for thousands of years, spanning many cultures. If most of us traced our family trees back far enough (and for some we might not have to go that far) we would likely find many ancestors who celebrated this feast of light – the return of the sun after the darkest times of the winter, when the days begin to lengthen. The ancient Romans knew the celebration as Saturnalia, the Hindus call it Diwali, the Jewish festival of light is called Hanukkah. For those of us who follow the pathways of our ancient Northern European ancestors, we call it Yule, Jul, or Jule.

Many traditions from lighted Christmas trees, to Yule logs and mistletoe are a part of this rich history and have influenced more modern winter holiday celebrations. These were all ways to celebrate the return of the sun and light after the bleak Northern winter. A time to celebrate brighter days ahead – hope for the future. There are still many of us today who continue these time-honored traditions.

In our home we celebrate by decorating 2 live trees – one outside with edible ornaments for the wildlife to enjoy and one indoors, potted that we can use year after year. We also burn a yule log, which is carefully chosen to represent maximum heat potential and longevity and then at midnight on the solstice we turn out all the lights for several minutes, and then turn them all back on to welcome the sun and the light.

In commemoration of this holiday, I also enjoy preparing a delicious feast. Isn’t that what all food obsessed people do? Did you know that the tradition of the Christmas Ham comes from ancient Scandinavians and Germanic peoples? The traditional meal for these proud people was a whole roasted hog, a tribute to the God, Frey, who is associated with boars.

This year I found out that I have some German and Scandinavian (Danish) roots of my own, and to celebrate this new-found heritage, and honor my ancestors, I decided to focus this Yule feast on those cuisines. Typical Jul fare in Denmark includes roast pork, potatoes and red cabbage. So I created a delicious Yule feast consisting of Roasted Pork Chops and Cherry Sauce with Wine Kraut, Red Cabbage and Mashed Purple Viking Potatoes with fresh local cream and butter.

For dessert we enjoyed a Deconstructed Brown Rice Pudding with Cherries. All washed down with some delicious local sparkling mead. (recipes below).

If you would like to celebrate the Winter Solstice and need some food for thought, here are some ideas from years past:

Norwegian Kjøttkaker med Brunsaus (spiced meatballs in gravy)

Norwegian Mulled Wine and Sweet Porridge

Winter Solstice Cocktail Party

Yule Log cake or Bûche de Noël

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THIS YEAR’S RECIPES:

Roasted Pork Chops and Cherry Sauce with Wine Kraut and Red Cabbage

2 large bone-in pastured pork chops

1 TBS wild game blend (juniper, savory, mustard, brown sugar)

3 ½ cups shredded red cabbage

4 slices of dried apple snipped into strips

salt & pepper

1 ½ tsp Beau Monde- allspice, bay, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, black and white pepper

1 pint homemade winekraut

for Cherry Sauce

1 cup 100% pure dark cherry juice

¼ cup fruity red wine

palmful of dried morello cherries (unsulphured, no sugar added)

½ tsp vanilla extract

black pepper to taste

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Season pork chops with wild game blend. In a large cast iron skillet sear pork chops on all sides in butter or bacon fat. In the bottom of a tagine or dutch oven, season the red cabbage with salt, pepper and beau monde. Place the chops on the cabbage and pour the winekraut over everything. Add the apple slices. Roast in oven for 2 hours.

After 1 ½ hours make the cherry sauce. In a small saucepan, mix all ingredients. Bring to a boil, over medium heat then reduce heat to low. Reduce the sauce until it is ½ of the original amount. Place in a small serving bowl for ladling on top of the pork. Serve with mashed potatoes. Serves 2.

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Deconstructed Brown Rice Pudding (no sugar added, egg and gluten free)

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup of almonds (I soak my almonds in water and salt overnight and then store in the freezer)

¼ cup dried morello cherries (unsulphured, no sugar added)

¼ cup dried wild blueberries (unsulphured, no sugar added)

½ cup water

1 cup cooked brown rice

½ cup whole milk (preferably raw)

1/3 cup 100% pure dark cherry juice

1 TBS pure vanilla extract

¼ cup Drambuie or brandy

METHOD:

Soak almonds one day ahead (optional). Soak cherries and blueberries in warm water for at least ½ hour. Also soak the rice in the milk. This will allow the berries to plump up and the rice to absorb some of the milk.

Right before serving, dump the berries and their soaking liquid in a small saucepan with the extra cherry juice, vanilla extract and booze. Heat up over medium heat, bring to a boil and then simmer until berries have soaked up most of the liquid.

To serve, pour the berry compote over the rice and milk mixture. Serves 2.

Holiday Baking Series: Polenta & Sesame Biscotti

A season full of sweets and baked goods for those of us who are gluten-intolerant or go without refined sugar can be a bit daunting. I have made plenty of sweet treats that are not GF to send to family and friends this year. But I want to enjoy some treats too! So I have been having fun experimenting in the kitchen and making some delicious GF cookies. That is why I was really excited to find a biscotti recipe in Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina De Palma, using polenta as a base flour. The rest of the recipe is easy to convert to make it GF and refined sugar free!

Polenta or cornmeal is a staple dish in the north of Italy, and always reminds me of when we were visiting Venice and Tuscany.  Funny how eating a certain food can so readily return vibrant memories…So, I like to say these are Northern Italian inspired cookies. Venetian in particular, with the use of sesame seeds and sweetened with honey hearkening to the days of ancient Venice and the use of exotic spices and ingredients.

Making biscotti with cornmeal is very easy and the results are crunchy and delicious – probably my favorite as far as biscotti go. These are very unique and therefore special biscotti, making them great gifts. I made the version inDolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen to send to friends and family, and made this version to satisfy my own sweet tooth!

Polenta and Sesame Biscotti
adapted from Dolce Italiano

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups GF flour – try a GF baking mix, or even oat or coconut flour
1 ¼ cup fine polenta
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup raw honey
4 large farm fresh eggs
3 large farm fresh egg yolks, plus 1 egg white for glaze
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup sesame seeds (I used a combination of white and black)

METHOD:

In a large bowl mix together GF flour, polenta, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and honey, about 2 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time then the yolks one at a time beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low to form a soft dough. Beat in ½ cup of sesame seeds until they are thoroughly incorporated. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours, or until firm enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 325F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Using well floured hands(the dough is very sticky), divide it into 4 equal portions and roll each portion into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter and 12 inches long. Place 2 logs spaced 3 inches apart on eah sheet.

In a small bowl beat the egg white until frothy, and with a pastry brush glaze the surface of the logs with the egg white. Then sprinkle them with the remaining sesame seeds. Bake logs unti; the are golden brown and feel somewhat firm to the touch – about 30-35 minutes. Rotate the sheets 180 degrees halfway through baking to ensure even baking.

Allow the logs to cool on the baking sheets or on a wire rack until cool to the touch – about 40 minutes.

With a sharp serrated knife slice the biscotti, slightly on the bias into ¼ inch wide slices. Lay sices on the baking sheets in a single layer and bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes more until they are toasted, dry and crisp. Cool biscotti completely n baking sheets. Store in a clean airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 6 dozen biscotti

Romantic Birthday in Québec City

Today I am going to interrupt the holiday focused posts and take a quick detour to Québec City. I am a very lucky lady, my husband is wonderfully romantic. When we first met over 5 years ago, he jokingly told me that in Italy, they have “romance classes” for young boys in school along with art, math, sciences, history and languages. It was meant in jest, but if you know Roberto, you would believe that he attended those classes as a young man growing up in Rome.

So my lovely, romantic husband whisked me away on a surprise trip to Vieux-Québec (Old Quebec) City to celebrate my birthday, this past weekend. Living in rural, Northern Vermont, the closest city to us is Burlington. But Burlington is the smallest large city of any state in the USA. So for us to get a taste of the city life, we generally head to Montréal, which is the closest large city to us, closer than New York City or Boston. That said we are not really city people but we love French-speaking Canada because it is very European. The streets are full of cafés, bistros, and shops displaying beautiful handmade items, either made locally,or imported from Europe. I didn’t pick up a single item the whole weekend that was made in China. Even the utensils at the restaurants were from France and the dishes from England.

Another aspect that we so enjoy about visiting Québec Province is that breakfasts are usually included with the room… and you actually want to eat it. When I stay at hotels in the US, I always have to bring my own food for breakfast. Being gluten-intolerant, and not eating sugar, HFCS, food dyes, etc there is very little at the continental breakfast that I can eat. But in Québec there is incredible variety. During our trip, the hotel we stayed at offered a breakfast buffet with our room. We got to chose from a variety of amazing choices each day: Fresh fruit smoothies, 3 types of fresh cooked eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, potatoes, crepes, yogurt w/ fresh berry coulis and maple sugar, muesli, oatmeal, fresh fruit (including figs), hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, rillettes, cretons, local cheeses and of course about 20 different varieties of croissants, breakfast pastries, brioche and breads. I ate until my heart’s content every morning, and Roberto was happy to have real, European style breads to chose from – a real luxury for him. I particularly enjoyed the whole fillets of smoked salmon, the quality which is far superior to anything I can get in my local area. As well as the rillettes and local cheeses!

We enjoyed a lot of delicious food in many quaint establishments in Vieux-Québec, including Cassoulet avec lapin (rabbit), Bourguignon de caribou sauvage (wild caribou stew in a wine and blueberry cream sauce), various Pate (wild meat pies) quebecoise,  and yes, I did splurge on a crepe, and a croissant filled with pastry cream and apricots washed down with a perfect Café au lait.

We made up for all the eating with taking several long walks, and hikes around the city on Friday and Saturday. Vieux-Québec is a walled city with a fort, and during this time of year, the Citadelle is pretty deserted. The Citadelle is surrounded by The Plains of Abraham, a park and green space that runs parallel to the Saint Lawrence River. Historically it was grazing land from about the late1500’s to the mid 1600’s and was the place of the last battle between the French and the English in 1759. This place was a wonderfully quiet and magical place to take a walk on Saturday morning. There were a few other brave tourists, and some locals, snowshoeing and Telemark skiing, but for long stretches there was no one but us. It snowed all of Friday night with huge, fluffy flakes and on the Plains of Abraham the snow was at least a foot deep. I am really glad that Roberto told me to bring my winter boots! This hike was one of my favorite parts of the trip! I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for lack of proper footwear.

Vieux-Québec has an interesting layout with an upper and lower city. There is a Funiculaire or Funicular that links the two parts of the city, and has been in use since 1879. Or you can use the stairs, which on a freezing cold day, definitely counts as an intense hike. The Funicular freaked me out, so we did the stairs or climbed our way up steep winding sidewalks to get between the upper and lower city. This also ensured our ability to eat our way through Québec guilt free.

Vieux-Québec is an unparalleled destination for those seeking a European experience in North America without having the expense of overseas travel. The skyline is dominated by The Château Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. It sits on a bluff overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, and looks every bit like a medieval castle bedecked with turrets, flags and sparkling lights. Truly a sight to behold, and certainly the architectural cornerstone of Vieux-Québec. It doesn’t stop there though, all the streets are lined with ancient stone buildings, many part of the original capital city of New France.

During the holiday season, there are a variety of holiday markets, including the German Christmas Market where we enjoyed spiced wine, traditional bratwurst with sauerkraut and roasted chestnuts. We also visited a large public market at the Old Port where we bought rillettes, cured salami, smoked fishes and fresh pasta and tasted traditional meat pies only made during the holiday season.

This is a great time of year to visit Quebec. One of the servers at the crêperie we went to told us that the mayor of Quebec wants to make Quebec THE city of Christmas. It has my vote. With its streets looking like something out of a magical Christmas village, all the beautiful holiday decorations and all the special events and holiday experiences to be had.  It is a perfect destination to get you into the magical spirit of the season. Even Bon Appetit agrees!

Friday Faves – Laura’s Lean Beef and DITALIA

Last Night’s Dinner – Simple Weeknight Fare

Sometimes during the holiday season when your mind is on other things you just need a nice quick meal. Something quick, easy to put together and nutritionally balanced. Something like burgers and fries. At our house that usually means patties made from organic, grassfed beef from our local farms, and oven roasted potatoes that we grew in our garden, served with organic ketchup and homemade pickles.

Since I am always writing about local, grassfed beef, I get a lot of emails, comments and questions from my readers asking me what they should do, if they don’t have a local farm nearby to buy meat? I always point them to Localharvest.org but sometimes even that doesn’t provide an easy answer. Previously I would tell them to look for buffalo meat instead, but it looks like some buffalo farms have gone the way of CAFO. So I have been really stumped.

(Photo courtesy of Laura’s Lean Beef)

Several months ago I was contacted by Laura’s Lean Beef about doing a product tasting. In all my dealings with meat companies, I asked a lot of questions. It was clear from the get go that Laura’s Lean Beef doesn’t use antibiotics or growth hormones. Which are a good things, but I needed more reassurances – are the cattle grassfed? If not entirely, is the grain GMO grain? Things like that.

As I said in last week’s Friday Faves I am not going to sample products unless they fit my criteria and I feel sure about the possibility of recommending the product to my readers. Although I am committed 100% to local, grassfed, pasture raised animals, I know that many of my readers don’t have local farms available to them and so I wanted to see if Laura’s Lean Beef would be a viable option for those readers. A product I could recommend to readers faced with the above dilemma.

So I asked what Laura’s cows eat – and this is the answer I got: “Laura’s cattle are mostly fed grass. They have access at all times to plenty of space. Cattle are never really “indoors”, although they are given access to shelter as necessary from bad weather. Their primary diet is pasture grass. They are given some corn, corn silage, barley, soy products, legumes, etc. to supplement the diet. And of course they are never given growth hormones or antibiotics. Hope this helps.”

It helped, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be advocating beef that eat GMO products. So I asked about GMO and this is what I was told: “The corn and soy products are non-GMO. Below is some background information on how Laura’s fits in to the organic/lean/grass-fed beef picture:

“Organic Beef – Focusing on Production
Today, healthy eating is often associated with the word “organic.” However, certified organic beef is not necessarily lean and may not deliver all of the health benefits of beef that’s low in fat. An organic certification refers only to the philosophy and practices used in beef production. For beef to be certified organic, cattle must be handled and fed in certain specified ways including having access to pastures and being fed 100% organic feed. They must also be processed in certified organic plants. There are no stipulations, however, about fat content. In fact, organic beef is typically no more healthy or nutritious than conventionally produced beef.

Grass-Fed Beef – Return to the Range
Since the late 1990s, there has also been a growing interest in grass-fed beef. This has been driven by
many of the same principles which propelled the organic movement including the return to more natural food production. Grass-fed beef, however, takes things one step further. Livestock are raised only on pasture – not on grain or soy of any kind. As a result, animals produce more “good” fats (including omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid or CLA) and fewer “bad” fats (omega-6s).
The drawback to grass-fed beef is its taste and toughness. It is very difficult to raise cattle solely on
pasture that yields the succulent and tender beef which consumers prefer.

Natural and Lean Beef – The Laura’s Difference
While Laura’s Lean Beef is neither certified organic nor exclusively grass-fed, it combines many of the
benefits of both while delivering less fat and great taste. Laura’s cattle are raised on sustainably managed farms, without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics, and fed a diet of natural grasses and grains. This approach yields exceptionally lean beef, which is also full of flavor.”

Then it goes on to discuss that Laura’s Lean Beef is low in fat and saturated fat, which is not something I am too worried about, however the leanness of the beef does seem to prove that the cows are mostly grassfed, since grassfed cows are much leaner than their grain fed counterparts.

In conclusion: “Laura’s Lean Beef accomplishes this while providing conditions that meet the health needs and natural behavior of cattle. This combination – and its great taste – is what differentiates Laura’s Lean Beef from organic and grain-fed options.”

Click here to learn more about Laura’s journey from taking over the family farm, and transitioning to a new way of raising cattle.

So Laura’s started to sound like a good option for those without access to local, grassfed beef – the best part is, you can find Laura’s Lean Beef in many grocery stores across the country. There is even a store search on their website. So for those of you looking for a better quality meat, and have no access to farms or farmers markets, I suggest you try Laura’s! The meat is tender and tasty – and the ground beef is perfect for making mouthwatering burgers.

We used the free coupons they sent us to buy a package of ground beef, which is what they had available at my local grocery store. We used it to make burgers and accompanied the burger with oven roasted potatoes.

(photo courtesy of DITALIA)

Which brings me to my next fave for this week: GLOP. My friend, the owner of DITALIA, Vince sent me a free sample of GLOP when I placed my last order with him. He said “if you blog about it, great, if not, just enjoy it”.  It is really good to have friends like that! He also sent me a free sample of Sicilian Roasting and Grilling Salt.

I love both of these products. The GLOP goes great on pasta, or as a sauce for a white pizza. We enjoyed it on our potatoes with this dinner. I used to buy “Garlic Fries” from Trader Joe’s eons ago. The fries came with this packet of oil, herbs, spices and cheese. You poured it and mixed it on the hot fries, and it was GOOD. So I just chopped up some fresh garlic, added it to the GLOP and mixed it in my oven fries! Just as good as I remembered!

(photo courtesy of D’Italia)

As for the salt – I use it all the time – it is my official go to salt. Not just for meat, it is a great salt to use on veggies, potatoes, even on your morning eggs. There are some wonderful aromatic herbs and spices in there like dried rosemary and peperoncino. I definitely seasoned my Laura’s Lean Beef patties with this salt.

Since the holidays are coming up, I suggest popping on over to DITALIA’s website. They even have fantastic gift ideas for the holiday season already packaged up for you.  I know Vince travels to Italy every year to source out new gourmet products. So you can be sure that anything you get from DITALIA is of the highest quality!

Holiday “Baking” Series: No Bake Fruit and Nut Drop Cookies

No Bake Fruit and Nut Drop Cookies ( Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free)

These cookies are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, yet not taste-free. They are simply delicious and wholesome! They almost count as raw too, but as I am not so versed in raw foods, I am not sure if nut butters count. I am really happy with these cookies. I made a version of them last year , but these are much better!

Being gluten-free and trying to avoid typical holiday cookies that call for lots of sweeteners, like confectioner’s sugar, I have had to do some experimenting this year. So far it has been a lot of fun, and I still have another batch or two of holiday cookies that I’d like to do GF/ Real Food makeovers on.

These cookies are entirely guilt-free, actually good for you, and so satisfying in the sweet tooth department. Plus they are very festive with the addition of rum!

So if you are looking for a cookie you can really indulge in this year, or need a cookie that won’t flare up your food allergies, this is a sure bet! If you are allergic to some nuts, substitute others in. If you can’t do nuts at all, I think tahini and raw honey as a sweetener would work well. These are just a few flavor combinations that I tried. But my mind is already racing with all the different ways I can spin these cookies!

INGREDIENTS:
Apricot-Hazelnut
1 cup finely chopped, unsulphured dried apricots
1 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped hazelnuts*
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 oz almond butter (sub in any nut butter or tahini)
2 oz coconut cream concentrate (or just use more nut butter/tahini)
2 TBS dark rum
1 TBS date syrup

Almond-Date
1 cup finely chopped, unsulphured dried dates
1 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped almonds*
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 oz coconut peanut butter (sub in any nut butter or tahini)
2 oz coconut cream concentrate (or just use more nut butter/tahini)
2 TBS dark rum
1 TBS date syrup

METHOD:
I used my food processor to chop the nuts and dried fruits. I also used the processor to blend together the nut butter, coconut cream, rum and date syrup into a paste. In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mix well with your hands. Shape into one inch bite sized balls. Store in the fridge – makes 4-5 dozen.

*note I generally use nuts that have been soaked overnight for better digestibility.