Your Favorite Posts of 2011

 

I really want to take a moment to thank all of my readers and blogging friends for your support this year, both on this blog, as well as through Facebook and Twitter! As social media grows, it seems more of our interactions together take place on other websites, for example my Facebook page and Twitter account has amassed so many followers, I am just astounded and overwhelmed. I have really enjoyed getting to know many of you this way! Thank you!

It is hard to believe another year of blogging has gone by! Getting these posts together every year is always a great look back on all the wonderful food we have enjoyed. I hope all of you reading this also had a great 2011 and are all looking forward to 2012! Here are the top 10 posts from this year. If you enjoy something that I post, please click the “like” button at the top, to “like” it on facebook, also feel free to tweet about it or leave me a comment. This is very helpful to me to know what kinds of posts you all want to see!

Please leave a comment and let me know what kinds of posts you would like to see on this blog in 2012! Happy New Year!

 

NUMBER 10: Breakfast of Champions and my First YouTube!


 

Number 9: The BEST Gluten-Free Pancakes EVER

 

Number 8: Drying Apples For Winter Storage

 

Number 7: Raw Avocado Chocolate Pudding

 

Number 6: Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits

 

Number 5: Musings on Homesteading

 

Number 4: How to Make Kefir at Home…and Why You Should!

 

Number 3: DIY Holiday Gift Series: Dairy-Free Decadent Chocolate Truffles

 

Number 2: Making Yogurt at Home: Filmjölk

 

And your favorite post of 2011: Number 1: Got Raw Milk? Food Freedom Fighters!


Rømmegrøt: Gluten Free Sour Cream Porridge

 

One of my favorite holiday foods is Rømmegrøt – a traditional Norwegian dish, a sour cream(rømme) porridge(grøt) typically eaten on Christmas Eve. I make it every year; it is one of our holiday traditions. I would say though it is delicious to serve any time during the cold winter months.

Last year I made another porridge type dish called Trondheim Soup, a gluten-free porridge. So this year I decided to devise a gluten-free version of Rømmegrøt. I have always made it in the past using cream of wheat, which obviously wasn’t going to work anymore.

Rømmegrøt is a rich, flavorful, stick-to-your-bones kind of food. Perfect for cold weather! It is also a tradition in Norway for children to put out a bowl of porridge for the Nisser–the elves on Christmas eve! Although these elves have nothing to do with Santa, they are associated with and originate from Norwegian farm life. These are the elves that look after the farm animals–and in return for their protection, they want their Christmas porridge on Christmas Eve, so of course we oblige, we owe it to the sheep, goats and chickens!

Rømmegrøt is very easy to make, it is a one pot meal. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of butter, cream, etc. in this dish, if you are using high quality fats, this is good for you, especially in the cold of winter. The most essential ingredient is the rømme – a very high quality full-fat sour cream. We use Green Valley Organics Lactose Free sour cream because Roberto is having trouble with dairy these days, and having good lactose free products just makes life easier. Just make sure the sour cream you use doesn’t have gelatin or other stabilizers added. Or you can just make your own!

Milk is another important ingredient. I used some local raw milk from Applecheek Farm, but you could use any organic milk – raw if you can, or grassfed if you can’t find raw. The only other things you need are a thickener – I used oat bran this year and then some salt. This delectable porridge is then topped with a pat of butter to make the all-important smørøya, literally: “butter island” (isn’t that awesome that there is actually a word for that?), cinnamon, sugar and dried currants or raisins. In Trondheim where I lived, this dish is traditionally eaten as the main meal on Christmas eve with a variety of dried cured meats. If you like you could try serving this for breakfast, or even dessert. It is just that good.

Rømmegrøt (recipe adapted from The Norwegian Kitchen)

INGREDIENTS:

1 quart of high quality, full fat sour cream
3/4 cup oat bran
1 quart of full fat milk
Salt to taste
Toppings: butter, cinnamon, raw cane sugar and dried currants or raisins

METHOD:

Simmer the sour cream for about 15 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Stir in the oat bran and bring to a boil, while continuing to keep an eye on it and stir often to prevent burning. If butterfat leaches out of the cream, remove it and save for later. In a separate saucepan, bring milk to a boil and use it to thin the porridge to the desired consistency. Then season with salt. You can use the reserved butterfat to swirl on top of the porridge to serve (instead of creating a smørøya). Serves 8. Recipe can be easily halved.

Norske Pannekaker: Grain-Free Norwegian Pancakes

(Norske Pannekaker: Grain-Free Norwegian Pancakes with Red Currant Jam and homemade Maple Breakfast Sausage)

I know I promised everyone another really great quick, easy, healthy and delicious DIY Holiday Gift in the series , but we had a little setback this weekend. We lost one of our bunnies, Lady Sassafras AKA “Sassy”. It was completely unexpected and so really left us in an emotional mess. Needless to say we were not feeling the joy of the season, so I decided instead of contaminating the last recipe with my bad energy mojo and sending it out to my loved ones, I will just save it for next year! Sassy will be missed and is in our hearts, a sweet fluffy bunny who always had an adventurous spirit despite a genetic disability she was born with that did not allow her use of one of her back legs.

(RIP Sassy)

As I have mentioned many times on this blog over the years, when this time of year rolls around I am always reminded of the time I spent in Norway and I like eating Norwegian or other Scandinavian inspired foods. This year I have really been getting into pancakes, so far we really love these Buckwheat Pancakes, Coconut Flour Pancakes and Oladyi (Russian Yogurt Pancakes) made with buckwheat flour.  But I was really missing those tender, almost crepe-like pancakes that melt in your mouth that I ate so often in Norway.

We spent a few days in Quebec for my birthday again this year , and we happened upon a European grocery, and we got a lot of really delicious items, including some wonderful red currant jam. Norwegians don’t use maple syrup very much and instead regularly use jam on pancakes and waffles.

On our return I decided to start looking for gluten-free (preferably grain –free) pancake recipes that would work for Pannekaker to eat with the jam. I knew I would be eating more grain over the holidays, which tends to not be so good for me, so if I can find grain-free substitutes it is better. I experimented with a few until I came across this one from Tropical Traditions for Coconut Flour Crepes. In fact they have a lot of great coconut flour recipes there. These were perfect, they really “ate themselves” to quote my husband. The only thing I did differently was use butter to fry them, instead of coconut oil – which I am sure would be great too, but Norwegians do love their butter. I served them with more butter, sprinkled cinnamon and topped with the red currant jam.

Roberto seems to have developed an intolerance to cow’s milk (even raw). So we do a lot with coconut milk these days while we are waiting to breed our goats so we can get some goat milk (hopefully this summer). However, if you want to try another version, with heavy cream and without any flour at all, Soli from I Believe in Butter whose mother is from Sweden, gave me this recipe her mom developed. I am sure they are fantastic and taste super authentic  – they are pretty much the same as Norwegian pancakes anyway, but each country likes to claim them for their own and why not? They are awesome! Try some today, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even as a holiday dessert!
For more Norwegian Scandinavian recipes that are great from this time of year please check out the recipes on this link.

DIY Holiday Gift Series: Maple Popcorn

 

WARNING: the next few weeks will be possible SPOILERS for family and friends


Don’t you just love all these healthy treats I have been sharing in this series? I just love sharing all these goodies with you! I am amazed at how good, “good for you” treats can really taste. I gotta say, it makes me feel really good about giving them to my loved ones (and sampling them to make sure they are good enough to send!)

This past weekend I experimented with a batch of Maple Popcorn. I have an Uncle who got addicted to it when he and my Auntie came to visit us a year or so ago. I have to be honest, like delivery pizza I never liked popcorn. It was always stale tasting or covered in that nasty fake butter. But when I had it once, made on the stove top using real butter, I discovered how much I liked it! Since then, it has been a sometimes snack in our household and I really did enjoy the maple popcorn that my Uncle got hooked on.

So, I thought maple popcorn would be a great gift to send for the holidays – nothing says Vermont like maple and popcorn is so lightweight and easy to ship! When I saw a recipe for Healthy Caramel Corn on Cheeseslave’s blog, I thought it would be a good base for a maple version and was it ever! I nailed it on the first batch, just by modifying her recipe to include maple. It was so good and incredibly fast and easy to prepare!

I’ll share a little secret with you though…this is made even better by grating some parmesan cheese on top…I admit to having that weird taste bud that loves sweet and salty or sour together rather than one or the other alone. Recently I found out it could be genetic (which explains why so many people think it is weird) thanks to another blogger who also solved a genealogical mystery for me.

ANYWAY, before I go way off on a crazy genealogy tangent now (I probably will at a later date), let me share with you how I packed the maple popcorn. I decided it would be cute to package them in white paper bags, decorated with holiday stamps!

I found this adorable snowflake stamp set, but when I got the stamps, I was disappointed to find that the stamp pads did not work on white paper! So I had to rush order some colors that would work!

Don’t they look cute and festive?

So go on and enjoy a bowl this weekend! It is a really tasty treat that everyone can feel good about eating!

 

Maple Popcorn (based on Healthy Caramel Corn from Cheeseslave)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup un-popped organic popcorn
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup 100% pure maple syrup
¼ cup really good butter
Salt to taste

METHOD:

Put the popcorn and coconut oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven and turn the heat up to high, put the lid on.

After a few minutes, you will hear the popcorn start to pop. I like to shake the pot around a few times to make sure the un-popped kernels go to the bottom to pop. After a few minutes, the popcorn will stop popping. Listen closely and when the pops slow down, remove the pot from the heat. Act quickly and pour the popped popcorn into a large bowl (you might need two bowls). If you leave it in the stockpot, the popcorn at the bottom will get burned.

Put the stockpot on low heat and add the maple and butter. Stir until blended and completely melted. Pour the butter/maple blend on the popped popcorn. Toss in a few pinches of sea salt and mix it all together until everything is well-incorporated. If you are crazy like me, grate some parm on top. If you have trouble getting it mixed together in the bowls, you can put it back into the stockpot to mix it. Makes about 6 cups of popcorn per batch.

DIY Holiday Gift Series: Decadent Chocolate Truffles

 

WARNING: the next few weeks will be possible SPOILERS for family and friends

Scandinavian Snowball Truffles

Truffles are so good, so decadent, and so seductive. For someone like me who doesn’t usually get all the fuss about chocolate, I can easily get behind truffles. Deliciously creamy bites of dark chocolate bliss are a sure winner for everyone and this is certainly the time of year to indulge.

But what if truffles were made with good, wholesome ingredients, so even as an indulgence you are getting a lot of good things your body needs along with it – like healthy and beneficial fat such as coconut milk, coconut oil, fair trade dark cocoa powder and allergen friendly chocolate?

Years ago, when I had a Trader Joe’s near me, I would get boxes of their truffles to give as gifts to people. So I knew one DIY holiday gift I wanted to make this year was truffles. I was inspired by Nourished Kitchen’s recipe (the post is worth a read – it tells her sweet and lovely wedding story) and in fact my Solstice Spice truffles are almost exactly like Jenny’s Mayan Chocolate Truffles. But I wanted to branch out a bit from her recipe and make a flavor with all the spices that remind me of Yuletide kitchens in Norway – cardamom and anise with coconut, and this is how Scandinavian Snowball truffles were born.

As I indicated last holiday season, when I “came out” on the blog as a Pagan, I talked about the Winter Solstice and how we celebrate this time of year. I follow the spiritual pathways of my Northern European ancestors who call this celebration time Yule. For Pagans of various denominations, this time of year is also about a birth, the birth of the Sun. Just like other religious celebrations during this time of year, we celebrate a festival of lights and honor the warming sun which on the Winter Solstice ends the darkest time of the year, giving birth to longer days. So this time of year I like to honor the sun and remember with fondness the time I spent in Norway, by incorporating the flavors and food culture into my celebrations. This celebration was the inspiration for the flavor of these truffles – warming and spicy.

To make it easy for my recipients, I made each flavor in a different shape. One I cut into “rustic” (to borrow Jenny’s language) triangular shapes, and the other, I used my hands to roll into a traditional ball shape. Each truffle is about a rough teaspoon in size. Each recipe makes about 100 truffles. As always, I included a card with the package that contains the ingredients. I made the package from a square of natural, unbleached parchment paper and tied with raffia.

INGREDIENTS: Solstice Spice:

20 ounces chocolate with high cocoa content, chopped coarsely (or chips) – I used Enjoy Life: Dairy, Soy and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chips
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 vanilla beans, opened and scraped
pinch unrefined sea salt
4 cups full-fat coconut milk
4 TBS coconut oil
cocoa powder ( @¼ cup) and a few dashes cinnamon mixed, for dredging truffles

INGREDIENTS: Scandinavian Snowballs:

20 ounces chocolate with high cocoa content, chopped coarsely (or chips) – I used Enjoy Life: Dairy, Soy and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chips
1 tsp cardamom, ground
½ tsp star anise, ground
1 vanilla bean, opened and scraped
pinch unrefined sea salt
4 cups full-fat coconut milk
4 TBS coconut oil
cocoa powder and desiccated coconut mixed (@ ¼ cup each), for dredging truffles

METHOD:

1. Toss chopped chocolate into a mixing bowl with the spices, scraped vanilla bean and a dash unrefined sea salt.
2. Bring coconut milk and coconut oil to a slow simmer in a saucepan over a moderate flame.
3. Pour coconut milk and oil over the chopped chocolate and seasonings then stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is thoroughly melted and the mixture, or ganache, becomes thick, uniform and glossy.
4. Transfer the mixture into a loaf pan or glass baking dish with sides lined with parchment paper, and allow it to harden in the refrigerator for eight to twelve hours, or overnight.
5. After the chocolate has hardened in the refrigerator for eight to twelve hours, remove it, unmold it from the parchment paper and carve it into irregular bite-sized chunks or for balls, use a one tsp measuring spoon
6. Toss the chunks with cocoa powder mixture and serve. Makes about 100 tsp sized balls and/or rustic chunks per recipe.
NOTES: Unless you live in a very hot climate, these truffles should keep at room temperature indefinitely.

* Be sure to click on the DIY Holiday Gift Series tag to see all the posts in this series!

DIY Holiday Gift Series: Chai Tea Spice Mix

 

WARNING: the next few weeks will be possible SPOILERS for family and friends.

In my last post I talked about why we have decided to go the DIY route when it comes to holiday gift giving. I also shared the edible gifts we made last year, mostly cookies. As promised, here is the first in this year’s series of DIY Holiday Food Gifts!

In creating gift items, I really wanted to focus on warming qualities this time of year, things that say “comfort & indulgence” but are still healthy. There is nothing more comforting that a nice steaming glass of spicy, flavorful chai tea and most people enjoy chai. The very smell of it warms you up. So when I came across a recipe for Chai Tea Spice Mix, I immediately put it on my list of potential gifts.

With dried citrus and crushed whole spices the mix looks as good as it smells, and so it was easy to make the decision to make it, although I did modify it. This recipe makes 36 servings, each serving is 2 TBS of the mix which would make an entire pot of Chai Tea, or can be divided in half to make two 2 cup servings. I packed the chai spice mix in 100% cotton muslin bags, so the bags can be used to make the tea and I made sure to include a recipe card for making a delicious pot of Chai Tea and also included a list of ingredients:

Happy Holidays!

This bag contains 2 tablespoons of Chai Tea Spice Blend. To make Chai Tea you will need:
3/4 cup(s) water
1 1/2 tablespoon(s) black tea (or one tea bag)
1 tablespoon chai spice blend (contains: Darjeeling tea, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, allspice berries and dried clementine)
1 1/4 cup(s) milk or milk substitute
1 TBS of honey

To Make Chai Tea:
Boil ¾ cup of water and steep one bag of black tea or 1 TBS of black loose leaf tea with the spice mix (if you are using a regular tea bag, you will need something like a tea ball to steep the chai mix in at the same time). Then add 1 ¼ cup of milk and 1 TBS of sweetener, serves two 8 oz. cups of chai tea. Or you can add the entire contents of the bag (keep it in the bag for easy use) and steep with your favorite pot of black tea for a special holiday treat!

To Make Spice Mix:

INGREDIENTS:

5 clementines, sliced thin
1/2 cup cardamom pods, crushed with a mortar and pestle
12 cinnamon sticks, crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 TBS whole cloves
2 TBS black peppercorns with a mortar and pestle
2 TBS allspice berries with a mortar and pestle
1TBS coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup whole star anise
1/2 cup loose Darjeeling tea

METHOD:

Dry the orange: Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the orange into 1/8-inch-thick rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake, turning occasionally, until dry — 2 to 3 hours.
Make spice mix: Combine the dried orange and the rest of the ingredients except the tea in a large bowl and toss to combine. Store the spice blend in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

*note: We have about 20 families or couples on our holiday list this year and all packages need to be shipped. So I tried to avoid anything in glass jars anything liquid, etc. I also tried to keep in mind things that would be lightweight and easy to ship. The cost for all of the food gifts including ingredients, decorating and packaging runs about $8-10 per package, which isn’t bad at all, especially when you see the quality and diversity of the packages. Some packages are even less, as for smaller families and couples, we are sending only a few of the items, instead of all.
* Be sure to click on the DIY Holiday Gift Series tag to see all the posts in this series!