Here is a Dutch holiday cookie recipe that’s flavored with sugar and spice and everything nice! Some say this recipe is for kruidnoten (spice nuts), others know it better as pepernoten (pepper nuts). Whatever the history behind this is, all I know is that it tastes great!

Pepernoten_1

Pepernoten
Why wait for Sinterklaas? Make a batch to enjoy anytime!

50 g (1/4 cup) butter
100g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
2 tablespoon milk
150 g (1 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground anise
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients with a wire whisk and set aside. Add dry ingredients plus milk to butter and sugar and work into a dough, using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. Wrap dough tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Pepernoten_2

Chilling the dough makes it easier to handle and lets the flavors develop.

 

Divide dough into 4-5 pieces. Work each piece into ropes (or snakes, if you prefer) about the thickness of your finger and cut off nugget-sized pieces.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet, bake at for 8-10 minutes or until darker and cracks form on the top. Cool on wire wrack before storing in airtight container. Makes about 160 pepernoten.

About 80 cookies can fit on one cookie sheet.

About 80 cookies can fit on one cookie sheet.

 

I have an interesting story today, and maybe some of you can relate. The other morning I woke up to what I thought was a starling flying into our bedroom, hitting the window, then flying out. A couple seconds later the same thing happens: little creature flies in, hit the window, flies back out. Our cats weren’t around, probably waiting in the kitchen to be fed, otherwise they’d be waiting for that right moment to snatch it out of the air.

I walked out of the bedroom and saw a little creature on the floor at the end of the hall: a BAT! I looked up at the gaping hole in our ceiling so knew it had to come from somewhere. I had to keep this creature from flying away, so I took my shirt and threw it over the little bat. Though it didn’t fly away, it was able to crawl away, so I went looking for a container of some kind and found a plastic bin, emptied it, turned it over on the bat and trapped it that way. Then I went to put on another shirt.

Bats are so tiny, and this one (I read it was a “little brown bat”) is common across the US. Its wingspan would be the length of my forearm and it weighs only as much as a couple of chocolate chip cookies! Despite its small stature as well as its unusual cuteness, these brown bats have a LOT of tiny sharp teeth, perfect for catching and holding onto insects on the fly (pun intended.)

 

NOTE: Below are pictures of bats and I shrunk them down a bit, just in case you don’t like them. But if you do, you can click on them to see a bigger photo:

 

This bat would easily fit in the palm of your hand.

Such shiny, silky hair…what a contrast against it’s wrinkly hairless wings.

This being my first bat encounter, I called my sister up and asked her what I should do with it. She came over (her girls wanted to see it) and we took it to the upper slope of our property where the blueberries are struggling to grow. Wolfie, now having been fed breakfast, followed us in the hopes of chasing whatever it was that made all that scratching noises. My sister suggested to put it somewhere that it would be safe. With Wolfie being securely held back, I put it on a log with some big nooks and crannies for it to crawl into and sleep the day away. The only predators around here would be woodchucks and cats, so the bat had no worries about being attacked again.

And that’s the end of my bat story!

So, now that my story is done, I need to think of a way to segue into my Flavor of the Week recipe, but there’s nothing that comes to mind which can connect bats to oranges. Unless I was talking about a fruit bat, then maybe I would have an opening there.

Anyway, here is a super easy recipe that is extremely versatile, and you have the option of using orange or ginger, as well as agave or honey. I used it in my orange-shoyu sauce to make a nice glaze for chicken, use it as a topping for cake, in your tea, on peanut butter, or even on ribs like my friend Jan did with some ginger agave syrup (olive oil, lemon, syrup…yum!) Any way you have it, you will enjoy it.

The zest will taste like candied orange peel.

Orange Agave Syrup / Ginger Agave Syrup (inspired by veggienook.com)

4 oz light agave syrup or honey (for ginger syrup use dark amber agave)
zest from 1 orange (or 1/2″ piece fresh ginger, sliced thinly)

In a small saucepan combine agave or honey and zest or ginger. Bring to low simmer over medium-low heat, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in airtight glass jar.

Orange agave syrup. Compare this to the orange honey syrup below. See the difference?

Orange honey syrup is more cloudy than the orange agave syrup with tiny air bubbles stuck at the surface. The smell reminds me of flavored wheat beers.

Ginger agave syrup: great as a topping for carrot cake or your favorite barbecue ribs.

Has any of you had any “wild animal” encounters in your home? How did you handle it? (only happy endings, please!)

Half lemonade + half beer = one refreshing radler

After a few days of rain, we’ve been getting some nice, sunny skies and warmer weather. I can’t tell whether it’s still spring or the beginnings of summer (I am new to living with four seasons,) so whatever it is we’re having, I’m loving it!  If you are also looking to take advantage of the sunshine with a backyard barbecue or a couples-only picnic, don’t forget to mix up a batch of Spicy Ginger Lemonade, the perfect drink for sipping on sunny days. And, if you’re in the mood for something a little different (and maybe even more perfect!) why not make it a radler?

Radler is a refreshing blend of lemonade and wheat beer you can get anywhere in Germany. Served ice-cold, it is a crisp, refreshing drink with just a bit of sweetness and light citrus taste. You can easily make this with one part bottled lemonade to one part wheat beer (look for any label that says white beer, wheat beer, weissbeir or hefeweizen)  or you can use the recipe below for Spicy Ginger Lemonade.

Homemade Radler with Spicy Ginger Lemonade
using ginger juice will make it spicier than using sliced ginger simmered in sugar and water

2 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 9 large lemons)
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar PLUS Stevia equivalent of 1 cup sugar (if you’re using the Truvia brand it’s 1/3 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup fresh ginger juice* OR peel and thinly slice a 4″ pice of ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
chilled seltzer, club soda or cold water
light-colored beer (such as Stella Artois (good one for this drink,) HB, Franzis Kaner Weissbeir, Blue Moon Belgian White)
lemon slices and fresh mint for garnish (optional)

*(to make ginger juice: grate two 5″ piece ginger, put pulp into cheesecloth, squeeze & twist juice into a measuring cup. Discard pulp.)

Directions:

In a medium sauce pan, stir sugar and stevia into water (add ginger slices, if using) and heat over medium high heat until it just starts to simmer, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let simmer for another two minutes, turn off heat. Add lemon juice, fresh ginger juice (if using) and stir well. Remove ginger slices and stir in cayenne. Chill at least 3 hours.

In a pitcher, pour in equal amounts of concentrated lemonade mixture and chilled seltzer or club soda. Gently stir to combine. If too sweet, add more club soda to taste.

In a tall glass, fill halfway with lemonade, top with cold beer (pour slowly, see below!) You can garnish with lemon and mint sprigs to make it extra fancy. Prost!

Whoops…be careful when pouring the beer into the lemonade, especially if you’re pouring from about 10″ above the glass!

 

Be creative by using concentrated pink ginger lemonade and floating the seltzer and beer on top! (dip a slice of fresh beet into the lemonade concentrate…instant color!)

Happy Wednesday, everyone! This being my first What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW) post sponsored by Peas and Crayons, I wanted to kick it off to a good start, especially because I’ve been going off my healthy eating path and WIAW is a good incentive to get back on track. I’ve been eating  less healthy greens and eating more snacky stuff this past week and I noticed a HUGE dip in my energy level in the afternoons. Normally I’d see my husband yawning in the afternoon, but this time it was ME who felt tired, lazy and just wanted to drink coffee to help get me through. Although I still made healthy dinners and lunches, I ate less of the good and more of the bad.

I notice how much better I feel when I eat primarily veggies, even better with raw veggies (the Blood Type Diet says a diet focusing on vegetables are beneficial for A-types like me.) I try to do at least 80 percent veggies/legumes/fruits when I prepare my meals, which isn’t that difficult, but I’d like to increase the raw veggie consumption, as well.

To start off, I had a Chocolate Avocado Smoothie  for breakfast. The fruits and veggies are raw, the “seasonings” are not, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a toaster pastry!

Don't let the chocolatey goodness fool you, this shake contains vegetables!

For lunch I ate a ground-up nut mixture that contained carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and seasoning. I’m avoiding wheat products this week, so I wrapped it in lettuce leaves and had it with Gouda cheese:

My afternoon snack were these incredibly indulgent and almost raw Fudgy Espresso Bites (see delicious recipe below):

Instant espresso enhances the dark chocolate flavor of these fudgy cocoa bites.

For dinner I made veggie chicken soup, which is great when you’re trying to clear the fridge to make room for more fresh veggies! I seasoned this batch with Spike:

Veggies, pearl barley and chunks of chicken make this a hearty and flavorful soup.

Dessert was an almost raw Key Lime Avocado Pie:

Tart, light and refreshing!

And now here’s the Fudgy Cocoa Bites recipe, inspired by The Rawtarian’s incredibly delicious Raw Chocolate Cake recipe:

Fudgy Cocoa Bites

Ingredients:

1 cup almonds, soaked 2 hours or overnight in fridge
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, soaked 2 hours or overnight in fridge
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, soaked 2 hours or overnight in fridge
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not sure if this qualifies as raw since the alcohol is distilled?)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup agave sweetener (for Ginger Cocoa Bites, please see instructions below and make syrup first.)

Instructions:

After soaking all the seeds and nuts, drain thoroughly. Add to food processor and process until finely ground. Add dates,  cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. Process until mixed thoroughly and date pieces are chopped fine. Slowly drizzle in agave (or open the top and pour agave in, this way there’s less syrup stuck to the bottom) and process until mixture forms a ball.

Form dough into teaspoon-sized truffle bites, press into mini muffin tins or candy molds. Dust with extra cocoa powder if desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up then remove carefully. (I’m not sure what the longest is you should store them for, but I’ve had mine in the fridge for a couple weeks and have been nibbling on them daily.)

Ginger Cocoa Bites: (I got the ginger syrup recipe from The Veggie Nook’s Lime Cornmeal Pancake recipe, but instead of maple syrup I used agave…and added a LOT of ginger! This is so delicious I keep a stash of this handy. Thank you, Gabby!) Ginger syrup –  In a small pan on the stovetop, heat the 1/4 cup agave with 1 tablespoon thinly sliced and chopped ginger. Simmer on LOW HEAT for 3 minutes to reduce the spiciness of the fresh ginger. Turn off heat and cool the syrup while you combine the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle agave syrup and ginger pieces into mixture, process until mixture forms a ball and form into truffles or press into molds.

Espresso Cocoa Bites (my favorite!): add in 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso granules or 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules and 1/4 teaspoon stevia with cocoa powder. Form into desired shapes, sprinkle with just a pinch of espresso or finely ground coffee granules.

Peanut Butter Cocoa Bites: add 2 tablespoons smooth or creamy “no-sugar” peanut butter before adding agave.

Gluten free, dairy free bite-sized pieces of rich chocolate flavor with an incredible fudgy texture.

Enjoy your Wednesday, and eat well!

Instead of frosting, top a generous slice of carrot apple ginger cake with tangy goat cheese drizzled with ginger agave syrup.

Hoppy Easter, everyone! I hope you are enjoying your beautiful Easter morning and  celebrating Easter in your own special way. I woke up a little early to test out a cake recipe I’ve only baked once before, and the reason I’ve only baked it once is because of the amount of oil and sugar in the recipe. It’s a delicious cake spiked with freshly grated ginger, and tastes best right out of the oven, but it seems crazy to have 1 1/3 cups of oil in a cake recipe! I wanted to keep the flavor but reduce the fat, so I did a bit of improvising, thanks to a tip from a Cooking Light contest winner over 10 years ago. Instead of using oil or applesauce (as the substitute,) a jar of carrot baby food was used to add moisture. Clever, isn’t it? Hoping it will work with this recipe, I substituted a 6-oz jar of sweet potatoes baby food for almost 1 cup of oil. Because of the added sweetness, I reduced the sugar from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup. I also added some apples and a little cinnamon, which can be increased if you want a “warmer” flavor, or omitted if you prefer a spicier, ginger taste.

My husband and I had this for Easter breakfast and I was happy to see he went back for seconds! The cake is moist and fragrant, and the tangy goat cheese is the perfect compliment to the light sweetness of the carrot cake . I think I’m ready for another slice…

Carrot Apple Ginger Cake

2 cups spelt flour (or all-purpose flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups shredded carrots
2 cups peeled and chopped apple (about 1 large)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 6-oz jar sweet potato baby food
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (use a 2-inch piece for less intense ginger)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
goat cheese
ginger agave syrup (inspired by Veggie Nook’s recipe here)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan or two 8-inch round cake pans.

In a large mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients until well-combined. In another larger bowl, combine carrots, apple, sugar, oil, sweet potato bay food, eggs and ginger. Add half of dry ingredients to carrot mixture, mix well. Add remaining dry ingredients and combine well, but do not overmix. Sprinkle chopped walnuts or pecans in bottom of bundt pan or two 8-inch round cake pans. Fill pan(s) and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool and remove cake from pan(s). Top with a dollop of got cheese and drizzle with agave syrup, add extra nuts, if desired.

Cute min-bundt cakes are just the right size for one.

sweet and spicy ginger agave syrup