Winter

Christmas Chocolate Bark

Christmas Chocolate Bark

 

One of the holiday traditions in our family is to bake Christmas cookies together.  Each December, we pull out our cookie recipes and pick out our favorites, gather and shop for the ingredients, turn up the Christmas music, and get to baking.  I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember – back when I lived at home with my parents and baked with my mom and brother and sisters, when I moved out and lived on my own and baked cookies for everyone at work, when I got married and baked cookies for family parties and gifts, and now the tradition has come full circle and I am baking with my kids.  It’s such a great feeling and so comforting to take part in a tradition that has been passed down over the years!

 

This year, when we looked over our recipes, the kids and I came up with the following list, which we hope to package together and use as gifts for each of their teachers, our mailman, the bus driver, their great-grandparents, the barber, our neighbors, and anyone else that we think of who seems like they could use some Christmas cheer in the form of sweets!

 

·         Soft Molasses Cookies (our favorite newcomer from last year’s baking list)

 

·         Holiday Gingerbread Cookies (quickly becoming an old standby for our family and a fun tradition for the kids to use the cookie cutters and decorate the final result with homemade icing)

 

·         Gingerbread Biscotti (a new recipe we are trying this year – seems promising!)

 

·         Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites (a variation on my Granola Energy Bites)

 

·         Christmas Chocolate Bark (a variation on my Chili Chocolate Bark)

 

 

Here is how we made the Christmas Chocolate Bark:

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 1      

 

Place 12 ounces of chopped dark chocolate (70% or higher), 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 tablespoon of ground Ceylon cinnamon in a double boiler.  I like to use a glass mixing bowl over a medium pot of boiling water.  Heat and stir until melted and smooth. 

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 2

 

Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger plus ¾ cup each of dried cranberries and pepitas.

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 3

 

Pour chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Spread evenly with spatula. 

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 4

 

Sprinkle with another 1/4 cup each of dried cranberries and pepitas, as well as some coarse sea salt.  Use the spatula to gently press the fruit, nuts and salt into the chocolate ever so slightly.  You want the red and green colors to still be visible in the end product but you need to press them in enough that they will stay put when the bark is cooled.

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 5

 

Place in freezer for 15 minutes or until hardened.

 

making Christmas Chocolate Bark - step 6

 

Break into pieces and serve immediately or store in fridge or freezer in airtight container. Enjoy!

 

Christmas Chocolate Bark

 

Whether you are planning a baking extravaganza as we are, or you just need a little pick-me-up in the form of chocolate, or maybe you signed up to bring a dessert to your holiday party – here is a recipe that is sure to be a winner!

 

Christmas Chocolate Bark
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  2. 1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  4. 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped
  5. 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries, chopped
  6. 1 cup pistachios (roughly chopped) or pepitas (whole)
  7. coarse sea salt
Instructions
  1. Place chocolate, cocoa powder, and cinnamon in a double boiler (I like to use a glass mixing bowl over a medium pot of boiling water) and heat and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in all of the crystallized ginger plus ¾ cup each of the dried fruit and nuts.
  2. Pour chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Spread evenly with spatula. Sprinkle with remaining dried fruit and nuts, as well as coarse sea salt. Use the spatula to gently press the fruit, nuts and salt into the chocolate ever so slightly. (You want the red and green colors to still be visible in the end product but you need to press them in enough that they will stay put when the bark is cooled.)
  3. Place in freezer for 15 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces and serve or store in fridge or freezer in airtight container. Enjoy!
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/

 

Slow Cooker Chili and Buckwheat Cornbread

Slow Cooker Chili and Buckwheat Cornbread

Even though we had a gorgeous 70°F day last week, today’s brisk temperatures and biting wind are reminding us that winter isn’t quite over yet.  This next week’s forecast shows temperatures hitting 70°F again one day and snow only two days later.  So while Winter and Spring battle it out, here is a winter menu to warm you up on the cold, blustery days like today. 

 

One of my favorite wintertime comfort foods is a hot bowl of hearty chili with a chunk of cornbread on the side.  Mmmm…..

 

I also love using the slow cooker any time of the year because it shifts the dinner prep time from evening to morning and generally takes the edge off of dinnertime.  That way I can relax a bit more and enjoy the kids when they get home from school instead of having to get started on chopping and cooking soon after they get off the bus. 

 

So it’s no surprise that my favorite chili recipe to make is a slow cooker chili recipe!  (Keep on scrolling for the recipe.)

 

I’ve tried several variations of a cornbread recipe to go with the chili and have landed on a Buckwheat Cornbread recipe that is gluten-free but still moist and with a hint of sweetness that all good cornbread should have.  AND it contains buckwheat, which is one of the more amazing foods that I have stumbled upon over the past few years. 

 

Despite what the name suggests, buckwheat does not contain gluten and is not related to wheat at all.  Buckwheat is in the same family as rhubarb and sorrel and the part we eat is actually the seed of the plant. You get buckwheat flour when you remove the hull and grind the seed. 

 

[Here’s a shopping tip: if possible, try to find “light” buckwheat flour when purchasing at the store because the “whole” buckwheat flour is made by grinding the buckwheat hull in with the flour, which adds a darker color similar to wheat flour but virtually no nutrients.  In effect, this dilutes the benefits of the buckwheat flour and you get less for your money.]

 

The list of benefits from buckwheat is seemingly endless.  When I pulled my various food reference books off the shelf to research the health benefits of buckwheat, I was amazed to read the long list of vitamins and minerals that are contained in buckwheat.  I knew that it was a healthy food but didn’t realize just how much it could be helping our bodies!  Read on to see what I’m talking about…

 

In addition to the benefit of being gluten-free, buckwheat is the best known grain source of high-quality protein, contains many essential amino acids, and is rich in iron, zinc (essential for maintaining a healthy immune system), copper (helps you get more restful sleep), selenium (an antioxidant that can help protect the lungs from free radicals and prevent asthma AND helps to alleviate feelings of depression), and magnesium (a mineral needed for proper energy metabolism).

 

Buckwheat contains two important flavonoids – quercetin and rutin – that have been shown to block the spread of cancer.  And the rutin also helps to prevent heart disease and is great for our overall cardiovascular health because it keeps our blood flowing properly and unobstructed.  And since buckwheat also contains vitamin E, the effects of these flavonoids are enhanced. 

 

Buckwheat reduces levels of damaging LDL cholesterol and lowers blood pressure

 

Buckwheat also helps to control diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels.  The carbohydrates in buckwheat are digested more slowly than other forms of carbohydrates, which causes blood sugar levels to rise more evenly.  This also leaves you feeling full longer, making it easier to eat less and control your weight

 

So, what’s not to love?  Check out the recipe below and try a little buckwheat love in your diet today!

 

 

Slow Cooker Chili
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound ground meat (beef, venison, or turkey)
  2. 1 onion, chopped
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  5. 1 cup celery, chopped
  6. 2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked overnight and cooked (or 4 cups canned)
  7. 4 cups tomatoes, chopped
  8. 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  9. ½ Tablespoon honey
  10. ½ Tablespoon molasses
  11. 1 teaspoon salt
  12. 1 cup corn (frozen or canned is fine)
  13. 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  14. (optional variations to add heat: 1 minced fresh jalapeno pepper, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon hot sauce)
Instructions
  1. Brown meat in a pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, pepper, and celery and sauté for about 5 minutes. Place everything in a slow cooker.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to slow cooker and cook on high for 30 minutes and then on low for 8 hours. Serve with buckwheat cornbread.
Adapted from Simply in Season cookbook
Adapted from Simply in Season cookbook
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/
Buckwheat Cornbread
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups cornmeal
  2. 2 cups buckwheat flour
  3. 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  4. 2 teaspoons salt
  5. 4 eggs
  6. 1 cup coconut oil (melted) or applesauce
  7. 1 1/3 cup milk
  8. ¾ cup honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9x13” pan with butter or coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, buckwheat flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil or applesauce, milk, and honey.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until no dry spots appear (batter will be thin).
  5. Pour into prepared 9x13" pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Life From Scratch http://lifefromscratch.com/