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Archive for the ‘Condiments & Other’ Category

Happy continued holidays or “God fortsättning” as we would say.

Breakfast after the celebrations all through the holidays, consists of the best sandwiches.

Breakfast after the celebrations all through the holidays, consists of the best sandwiches.

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Christmas is celebrated for many days in Sweden. People take as many days of vacation as they can. We usually call all the days in between the holidays “squeeze days”. These are mostly given off to the staff as bonus days but at some workplaces they have to use vacation-days. Some years one can really get lucky and have 2- 2 1/2 weeks off. Other times it can be only a week. This year, many of my friends and family has been able to take a whole lot of extra days. How lucky. Here in the US we are only off on Christmas day. The rest has to come out of that oh so important vacation day pot. So since I just had a late year vacation, I am not having any days off in between.

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I always change the Christmas table up from year to year. The decorations are important but can really be anything & everything.

I always change the Christmas table up from year to year. The decorations are important but can really be anything & everything.

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Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. The food, the lights, the family & friends. It all comes together in a blend of “wonderfulness”.
We decorate the house with all the old Swedish little “tomtar” (gnomes), fruits, candles, straw ornaments, flowers and much more.

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The highlight of course, is the food. The Christmas buffet is a very typical and non-changing event. In my family, we keep having the Christmas ham, salmon mousse, warm smoked salmon or any other smoked fish, cold smoked salmon, Jansson temptation (potato & anchovy gratin), meatballs, cocktail sausages and much more on the table. No Christmas is complete without these dishes.

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Warmsmoked salmon or in this case, Whiting and cold smoked salmon.

Warm-smoked salmon or in this case, Whiting and cold smoked salmon.

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We celebrate Christmas eve. The following days of Christmas we make all sorts of leftover dishes. For breakfast, you could almost guarantee that people would eat meatball and beet salad, ham & cheese- & other versions of Christmas sandwiches. They are the best sandwiches ever.

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Dark

Sides & Red beat salad, olives, pickled cucumbers, sour cream, sweet-mustard sauce, lingonberries, mustard and much more.

Sides. Beet salad, olives, pickled cucumbers, sour cream, sweet-mustard sauce, lingonberries, mustard and much more.

God Jul!! Or Merry Christmas!!

God Jul!! Or Merry Christmas!!

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I keep telling my husband when he says that Christmas is only one day, that Christmas lasts until the beginning of January. So, keep on celebrating and keep eating versions of that fantastic Christmas buffet!

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Didn’t you ever wish you could preserve that fragrant smell of your favorite roses?

I have this one rose that gives me the most fragrant flowers. Huge and radiantly hot pink roses. The first year I just got a few of them, the second a few more, and now the flowers are huge and bloom a lot. It also gives me flowers in the fall when it get’s a little cooler.

I have a hard time cutting my flowers off and taking them inside when I know they will last 6-8 times as long left alone in the garden. But I have gotten a new idea of starting making Rose Water when the flowers has bloomed for a while and are still super fragrant. I pick them early in the morning before they have been “beaten up” by the sun and the morning dew is still on them. There are a few ways you can do it. The long way is veeery long. Depending on how many roses you are using it can take many hours for it all to drip down.

Rose Water is such a versatile thing. People spray it on their skin as a re-fresher. It is also added to moisturizers.

I use it for cooking. You can add a more concentrated Rose Water into light cookies, meringues, for drinks, in light sauces.

I think the food or baked goods has to be light in both color and fullness. It doesn’t sit right with some Rose Water in very “heavy” food. But a little Rose Martini wouldn’t be bad.

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Rosewater.

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Rosewater.

Rose Petals.

Water. Some say to use distilled water but I use spring water or double filtered tap water since I use it for cooking.

Directions;

Pick the roses early in the morning so that they are healthy and strong. Make sure they still are nice and fragrant and not too bloomed out.

Separate the petals from the rose hip. Rinse the petals very lightly and let them dry off on a clean kitchen towel.

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Use a large and deep pot with a slightly shaped lid for making the Rosewater.

Put one gown upside down at the bottom center of the pot. Add a bowl on top of that.

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Pack down all the clean petals all around the bowl. Push them down so that they don’t reach over the bowl. Add a few cups of water. Make sure not to use too much but still have it be enough for the Rosewater making.

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Add the lid, upside down. Make sure it fits nice and snug. Let the water come to a boil.

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When it starts to boil, add a couple of cups of ice cubes to the lid to make sure the steam starts to build up nice and well. The Rosewater will now start to “drip” into the bowl in the center of the pot. This can take some time. Turn down the heat slightly but still high enough to be boiling. Add more ice if needed. Ever so often, pour over the rosewater into another bowl. Put the bowl back into the pot and let the ice start-up the condensation again.

Like I said, this takes time and could take up to a couple of hours depending on how much water and rose petals you are using.

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There is a faster way of making Rosewater but this way doesn’t stay nice and clear.

You add the petals to the water and let come to a boil. When it has come to a boil, turn it of the heat and let sit and “steep” for a while until it has a nice and rich rose sent (and taste).

If you let it boil to long, the Rosewater will become a little bitter. I usually use that as a cup of Rose tea at the end.

Above are Rosewater made in three stages creating three different colors.

Pour all your Rosewater onto nice bottles.

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I hope you will have success with making some Rosewater.

If you don’t use it for anything culinary, add it to a spray bottle and use it as a refreshing mist.

Enjoy!!!!

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Set the taste buds on zero. Start the new year with new & fresh infused oils and vinegar’s.

Of course this is a great thing to do in the summer when you might have access to fresh herbs in a garden, but you can still buy nice fresh herbs in a well assorted store in the winter or use those dried herbs that you have in your food pantry.

I love to use my infused vinegar’s for so many things. For cooking veggies, on fish, in dressings, as meat tenderizers, taste enhancers and so many other things. A splash of vinegar at the end of cooking leafy greens keeps them green. Sometimes you just need something that can cut the heaviness in a dish, or that can just “lift” the taste. An infused vinegar can be kept for about 6-8 months. Some people say you need to keep them in the fridge to be sure they are ok. Personally, I don’t. I keep them in my food pantry (cold storage in my basement specially built for food) and in my kitchen. When making your own favorite vinegar make sure it is 5% or higher (5% is what is mostly sold in grocery stores).

The infused oils are a little harder to keep. You also need to be very careful with food safety. If you add fresh herbs to oil, bacteria can start to grow. All water based ingredients can have the “botulinum toxins” start growing in the oil. The bacteria need water to grow, so if you really want to be safe, add dried herbs or spices. You should also use a very high quality oil. And for safety reasons, keep it in the fridge. An infused oil only lasts a week or two.

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Infused Oils and Vinegar’s.

Find some really nice bottles with good corks or stoppers.

Since you need to be careful with the oils, it is better to make smaller amounts but more often.

Also remember to use good Oil & Vinegar.

So the basic idea is to put the herbs or spices and then pour over the oil or vinegar.

For my oils I usually do one Basil Hot Pepper combination. Sometimes I add roasted garlic to it.

I would also make a Mint version (I prefer to use spearmint).

I usually make a strawberry oil that I use for vinaigrettes. Delicious!!!

I use extra virgin olive oil.

Since the herbs are very fragile, you should remove them after 24-48 hours. I try to keep them a little longer in the bottles, but you need to be very careful with the kind of herbs you are using. If they are dried, you are a little “safer”. There is another way of making oils where you heat the oil up on the stove and let the herbs simmer with the oil for a while. If you choose to heat it up, make sure it cools down completely before adding to a bottle and putting on a stopper.

For the Vinegar’s I really add all sorts of different herbs, spices, fruits, berries or vegetables.

My favorite is to use fresh strawberries, raspberries or apples.

Hot Peppers and citrus zest is also a classic in my house.

Of course I would make some that has a combination of herbs, such as Basil (a few different kinds), Thyme, Tarragon or Mint.

Make sure all liquid covers the herbs & spices well.

I let the herbs and things stay in the bottles while storing them. If you use something that looses its color, you might want to remove it, but otherwise the vinegar pickles it and keeps it safe.

Enjoy!!!

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This weekend marks the start of all Glögg parties. Glögg is a mulled wine. It is brewing or at least being heated up in most  Swedish homes in December. Since the winter is dark and cold, we look forward to warming ourselves up by drinking a nice hot cup of Glögg served with some home-baked saffron buns and ginger snaps. We have Glögg parties all through the month. Since I love Christmas I have no problem squeezing a couple of these parties into my very hectic cooking and baking schedule for the weeks leading up to christmas.

Traditionally, the saffron buns are little “twisted” buns with raisins. But I never really liked raisins. I love dried cranberries (and almond paste), so I have eliminated one and added two… yum is the only thing I can say to describe these little bundles of joy. I have also made them round with some pearl sugar on top. For us, saffron is a typical spice for the holidays. I would say saffron, cinnamon, cloves, orange, ginger are some of the most typical smells and tastes of our christmas.

So the christmas countdown starts with first of advent, the first of the 4 Sundays before christmas. This is a much-anticipated event. Kids park themselves in front of the tv to watch the advent calendar. Every day you have to open a “door” (lucka in swedish) and find either a picture of something connected with that days show or just something belonging to christmas. If you are really lucky, you have one of the chocolate filled calendars (I never was that lucky, mine always just had a picture…figures.)

So my friends, here is a little Glögg party for all of us. Happy first of Advent. And yes, forgot to say… I apologize  in advance for the next few blog entries will be all christmas stuff. What can I say, I just love it! This is my favorite time of the year (except laying on the beach in the summer of course).

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Saffron buns.

1 gram of saffron. 

1/2 tsp. of salt.

A few drops of alcohol (to help the saffron develop its taste).

50 grams of fresh yeast. I package. (You can also use dry yeast, equal to 1 package fresh.)

1 1/2  stick (175 grams or 6 ounces) of unsalted butter.

2 c. (5 dl) skim milk.

2/3 c. light syrup  or granulated sugar (1 1/2 dl).

1 large egg.

6 1/2 c. flour (17 dl).

Directions;

Mix saffron and salt together with a pestle to break the saffron up. Add a few drops of alcohol to get the saffron to start releasing its distinctive taste. 

Just add enough alcohol to make the saffron starting to dissolve.

Just add enough alcohol for the saffron to dissolve.

Crumble up the yeast and add to a bowl. 

Melt the butter in a pan. Add the milk, saffron and syrup. Let it become finger warm. Add to the yeast. Stir slowly to dissolve the yeast. Add the beaten egg. Add the flour. Mix very well. Preferably with a mixer. Sprinkle a little flour on top and add a towel on top. Set aside to rise for about 45 minutes or to at least double in size. 

Let dough rise for about 45 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel.

Let dough rise for about 45 minutes. Cover with a kitchen towel.

The size should double after 45 minutes.

The size should double after 45 minutes.

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When risen, pour dough on to a floured surface. Cut into 2 parts (if you are doing half plain and half with almond paste). Start working the dough. You can make these buns as regular cinnamon buns if you want to. Just add almond paste with butter and cinnamon and spread over the dough that has been rolled out into a square. Roll up into a sauce shape. Cut pieces about 2″ thick (about 5cm). Bake either one by one or squeeze them into a cast iron skillet (small one) Let all rise once again. When done, brush with egg wash and bake in a 450-500 F (225-250C) oven. 

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IMG_0684Saffron buns filled with almond paste.

Divide the dough into equal size balls. Roll them to a nice ball. Squeeze a little cube of almond paste into the center. Cover it up by rolling it a little more. Add buns to a lined cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle over some pearl sugar or chopped almonds. Bake for about 5-9 minutes or until golden brown.

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The traditional saffron bun.

Roll dough into a long “sausage”. Cut into hand long pieces. Roll each end in opposite directions. Push down a raisin or dried cranberry into the center of the rolled up end.

Brush with an egg wash and bake for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown.

You can also use a cookie cutter. Not a traditional way of making these buns, but for a very few of the christmas items I am willing to experiment. As long as one don’t go to far away from the traditions.

Skillet Saffron buns.

You can also fill the buns with almond paste mixed with butter & cinnamon. Spread it out over the rolled out dough. Cut into 2″ pieces. Pack tight into a small cast iron pan, greased. Bake in a 400-425F (200-200+C) oven until golden brown. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle chopped almonds or pearl sugar on top.

"Break off" Saffron buns with almond paste filling. Baked in a small cast iron skillet.

“Break off” Saffron buns with almond paste filling. Baked in a small cast iron skillet.

 

Pack the unbaked buns with filling tight in a greased skillet.

Pack the unbaked buns with filling tight in a greased skillet.

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Home-made Glögg.

There are many versions of Glögg. I prefer a white version but people in general drink the red wine Glögg.

1 bottle of good red or white wine.

2 pieces of dried pommerans or orange peel.

1 piece of dried ginger.

2 cinnamon sticks.

5-7 cloves.

5-7 cardamom pods.

1/2 c. of sugar.

1/2 c. of port wine. (optional).

A small handful of raisins.

Heat wine on the stove. Note, DONT BOIL IT. Add the spices. Take the pot off the heat. Let sit and “marinate” for a couple of hours or over night until desired taste. Remove all spices and pour onto bottles or serve right away with skinned almonds and raisins/dried cranberries.

You can also make an alcohol free version. Jut use a good fruit juice. Black currant or blueberry is great for this. Use a more concentrated juice and let spices sit longer in the juice before removing them.

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You can use store bought ginger snaps and just decorate them. (I made my own though. Will post recipe at a later date. Am making more…)

Take 1 c. of powdered sugar. Add the egg white from one egg. Add a couple of drops of white vinegar. Mix well. Add to some parchment paper shaped into a cone. Cut of the tip of the cone and start decorate the ginger snaps. 

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Before we had Santa, our christmas “guy” was the christmas goat. To represent him we decorate with these straw goats. I have many of them. All sizes.

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A little mini advent calendar. I am so lucky. My sister-in-law usually sends us these for christmas. Thank you Jaana.

Happy first of advent.

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I just love my garden!!!

I am at the end of all my “farming” for this year. I have a small garden but it is well planned and we get lot’s of fruits, vegetables and herbs from it all through the summer.

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A great harvest.

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I have a lot of herbs. Basil is of course one of the staples.

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Herbs cut for drying. I make my own “Herb the Brooklyn” mixture.

It includes dried basil (Genovese, lemon/lime, Greek,cinnamon basil), Thyme, Lavender, Oregano, Mint, Rosemary, Sage (purple, golden & regular Sage), Chives, Mexican coriander (recao is another name for it) & Marjoram. This mixture is my every day spice. I use it for everything. You can call it one of my secret weapons.

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Lavender.

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I also make a more “Swedish” mixture of dried Dill, Parsley & Chives. This herbal mixture is great for any seafood but you can also use it for many other things.

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A great tip for herbs is to cut them fine and pack them into glass jars. All through the winter, you will now have “fresh” herbs. Just take the jar out and scrape with a fork directly into the food you are cooking. Or perhaps you are making a cold sauce that needs some herbs. Just add some from the frozen jars. I always have Dill, Parsley, Cilantro & basil in jars all over my freezers (yes I have 2 freezers. One in the kitchen for an everyday” use and one in the basement for all my bulk purchases and harvesting.

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All sorts of cherry tomatoes. I keep them on my deck so that there is an “easy access”. I don’t have to go into the garden itself to snack on some sun ripe cherry tomatoes.

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We love to always have a variety of tomatoes. They are just so delicious to use as they are or to cook with.

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I am always looking forward to my home-made tomato sauce. It is a mixture of all my different kinds of tomatoes and a whole bunch of herbs like Basil, Oregano & Thyme.

I cut it all into small pieces and then boil it down to a good consistency. I also add a few very finely cut fresh hot peppers. To keep the sauce for the winter I pour it into extremely clean glass jars. I always boil the lids separately to make sure there is no bacteria hanging out. Then, I put the jars in a water bath in a large pot (the water should only reach up to the lid). Let them come to a boil and then simmer for about 25-35 minutes. It depends on how long I boiled the sauce itself. When done, take the jars up and but on a dry towel to cool down. When you hear a little “pop” from the pressure of the lid, the canning of the tomato sauce is done. Keep in a cool and dark place. You might want to check the jars ever so often to make sure the sauce is still good.

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Physalis. Just be careful with it.  It is one of those plants that ones you plant it you will always have them in your garden. They replenish themselves greatly.

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Asters. My mothers favorite flower. I always plant them for her, even though she is in Sweden.  I always have Asters & Bleeding hearts my mothers favorites, Lobelia my fathers favorite & Ranunculus my sisters favorite.

Happy fall to all of you.

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It’s about that time again…. The time when I feel anxious and just want to pickle, preserve, make jam & chutney. Do all the things that belongs to fall.

Chutney is something I try to always have in the house. You can “enhance” any meal by adding a little chutney. There are so many versions of this excellent condiment. I use any fruit and spice. The key ingredients are usually curry & ginger. But then again, they belong to my favorite spices. Chutney is typically made in India or South Asia. They used to be made in a mortar pestle but these days one usually use a food processor. I personally don’t. Instead, I cut all ingredients very small and fine and cook it for a long time. A chutney contains spices, fruits or vegetables, vinegar and/or citrus fruits (lemon or lime) & some kind of sugar.

I am not sure why, but my mother always made different kinds of chutney. It is a little bit of a puzzle since it is very far from the typical Swedish food. But then again, my mother was always very adventurous in the kitchen. She experimented and came up with the most tasteful food. I am very fortunate to have learned so much from her.

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Asian Pear Chutney.

1/2 lb apples.

1 1/2 lb Asian pears.

1/2  c. apple cider vinegar (or balsamic vinegar.)

2-3 tbsp. minced or shredded fresh ginger.

1/2 – 1 finely chopped fresh hot pepper.

1/2 – 3/4 c. of brown sugar.

1 lemon. I use both the juice and the zest.

6-8 cloves of minced garlic.

4-6 tomatillos (optional).

1-2 large onions, finely diced.

1/2-1 c, raisins, any kind.

2-3 cinnamon sticks.

2 – 3 tbsp. curry powder.

1-2 tbsp. Madras powder (optional).

1 tsp. salt.

Directions;

Wash and dice the apples and Asian pears (you can use them with or without the peel). Cut up the onions, ginger & pepper (if you prefer a less “hot” chutney, discard the seeds & the membrane of the pepper.)

Mix all ingredients in a big pot. Let come to a boil and then simmer for about 1 hour or until all apples and Asian pears are nice and soft. Make sure to stir ever so often so that it does not burn. Don’t add all sugar at once. Add some and then taste it. If not sweet enough, add more brown sugar.

The chutney should have a marmalade like consistency. When done, pour into well cleaned glass jars. Let cool and then put on the lid. (You can also preserve it through regular canning techniques.)

Keep the jars in a cool and dark place.

You can use the basics from this recipe and just change the ingredients some. Make it your own kind.

I use this to meat, chicken, fish, vegetables… Well really everything and anything. At times, I also use it as a spice for cooking.

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Asian pears. It is a really juicy and sweet fruit. Very delicious.

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And so it is finally here. The 2012 Olympics!!!!!!

I love watching the Olympic games. Unfortunately everything else around me has to take a backseat during these weeks of competitions. The routine and organization around the house and my time keeping go out the window. In the morning you can tell which people in the subway and at work has been up all night watching the games.

In my house we have three teams to route for; Sweden, USA & of course S:t Lucia. It is great to have “choices”. But ultimately of course, I will sit and cheer for the Swedes. Sorry, but I have to do it.

I think there will be lot’s of “take outs” and “sandwich or non-cooked” dinners going on around the world.

Or, you could do as I do, prepare multiple meals ahead of time. I cook weekly meals and just pop them in the micro wave or the oven. It is all about speed & simplicity during sports events, right??

And, to make sure we last through our days, here are some home-made “Olympic Power bars” and some Trail mix for all of us.

Just a little note. I have used a whole lot of different berries, fruits and nuts in both the power bars and the trail mix. You really don’t have to do that. It is just that I have so many different kinds in the house that I have the luxury of using such a variety. For example, for the power bars It is just as good to only use raisins, oats and almonds if that is what you have at home.

Enjoy the games!! May all your favorite (or all the Swedes) win!!!

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Home made Power bars.

Makes about 14-18 bars.

1 c. old fashion oats.

1 c. dried fruits & berries. I used a mix of dried cranberries, bananas, pineapples, figs, blueberries & mangoes.

1 c. of chopped nuts. I used a mix of hazelnuts, raw cashews, pecans & almonds.

1/2 c. dried coconut flakes or shredded coconut.

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon.

2 tbsp. chopped Gojji berries. (This is not necessary, but I always have it in my food pantry so I used it.)

1/2 c. low or non-fat greek yoghurt.

1 tsp. ground ginger. Fresh or dried. (optional).

1/2 -1 egg (optional).

1-3 tbsp. good tasting honey. 

Dark chocolate (optional).

Directions;

Chop up nuts, fruits & berries. Add to a bowl. Mix in the coconut, honey, yoghurt, and all the rest of the ingredients.

If you add the egg, they become more chewy and dense and a little bit more “baked”. But, the egg keeps the bars better together.

I have made both with and without the egg. I actually prefer without.

Add the mixture to a parchment paper lined large pan. Spray the paper with cooking spray so it is easier to get it out after baking. Make sure to press the mixture down and distribute it well into corners all around.

Bake in a 350 degree oven (fahrenheit) for about 25-30 minutes, or until you see it is drying up very slightly at edges.

Take out of the pan and put on a cutting board. Cut perfect squares. Add them to a drying rack. Let the bars cool down and dry out a little.

If you would like to, melt some dark chocolate and dip one end of the bars into it. It looks really good and professional.

Well, that is really it. These bars are great to keep around the house.

Store them in air tight containers.

Enjoy!!!

Trail mix.

To make your own trail mix, you just need to mix nuts, dried fruits/berries & seeds together.

It is healthier if you use “raw” nuts. Not toasted.

Use any amount you would like too. Just remember to balance it with somewhat equal parts nuts and fruits/berries.

I used;

Dried mangoes, bananas, cranberries, apricots & blueberries. Cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds.

Cut up the dried fruits & berries if needed. Mix all of it together. Portion it into small “snack bags” for easy access for when you are “on the run” or just a big air tight container.

Enjoy!!

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