Mango Madness

Good afternoon everyone! I meant to write this post this morning but work got in the way! Ha. I just wanted to come by to say hi and share a refreshing treat I made this weekend. I managed to stay well all winter yet somehow I got the stomach virus that is apparently going around. I guess it happens to the best of us. Hee hee. So anyway, I did NOT feel like eating much this weekend but oddly enough I was craving frozen mangoes. So I decided to throw a few ingredients into the blender and out came this cold refreshing unexpected treat. I felt like I was eating dessert. Eating dessert while your sick? What could be better? It was completely healthy though. No sugar or dairy here.

017Mango Madness Sorbet

Amounts are approximate:

1 cup of frozen chopped mango pieces
1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
A few pieces of frozen pineapple (optional)
A few splashes of coconut water to get everything going
A few raspberries for garnish (optional)

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend away! You can even do this in a food processor if you don’t have a high power blender. You would need to process for several minutes to get the creamy consistency. Spoon into a bowl or favorite dessert class and enjoy!

This totally hit the spot and the ginger is awesome if you have an upset stomach. I felt so much better after eating this. The coconut water is a great source of electrolytes and way better for you than any sports drink that you would drink on its own.

Happy Monday!

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Lemons, Lemons, Lemons!

I’m not sure when my love affair with lemons started. It’s been awhile now. I remember loving anything lemon when I was younger. My mom used to make what she called lemon chiffon pie which was just some lemon pudding with whipped cream folded in. I loved it. We used to make lemon ice cream (amazing) and I remember one year for my birthday she special ordered a chocolate lemon cake for my birthday. I know that sounds a little odd but it was so good.

When I got older and started my journey toward eating healthier, I remember someone once said, “Throw some lemon in your water”and so I did. I’ve been hooked ever since but in a different way than when I was younger and eating lemon chiffon pie. I began to see all of the wonderful benefits of adding lemons into your daily diet. Over the past few years, I got several people hooked on them too. They are so refreshing, they smell amazing and they make life better. If life hands me lemons, I jump for joy.

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 Italian lemons. I took this picture when I was in Italy in May.

Here is how you can begin to add lemons into your life and experience all of the magic they have to offer. Start your day by drinking a large glass of lemon water in the morning. I squeeze one whole lemon in a 32 ounce glass of water and drink it while I get ready for the day. If you are not used to drinking that much water, just start off with a regular class.

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Lemons love you and here is why:

Lemons hydrate you: After a night of sleep, your body is dehydrated and would welcome some lemon water to stimulate your organs and tissues to help rejuvenate your cells and flush out the toxins. Think of your body as a sponge. Picture a sponge when it’s dried out. It doesn’t work properly, does it?

 017                     (photo courtesy of my baby brother, Nick Amabile)

Lemons alkalize the body. Lemons create an alkalized environment in your body which is a very good thing. This means that your body is in a state to fight disease and illness.

Lemons aid in digestion: Drinking water with lemon first thing in the morning stimulates the digestive system. The citric acid in the lemon interacts with the enzymes in your stomach and allows the digestive juices to flow. It has also been shown to calm an upset stomach or mild indigestion.

Lemons improve skin: Lemons have vitamin C, an antioxidant, which helps to decrease wrinkles and blemishes. Lemon water helps to flush toxins out of the body which also helps to clear your skin.

Lemon water energizes you: Think of lemon water as a gentle alarm clock for your body. It gently brings your body to a state where it can function the way it’s supposed to. It just makes you feel good.

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And so I challenge you to try lemon water in the morning for 5 days and see how you feel. Feel free to comment below and share your experience with the magical lemon.

Valentine’s Day Weekend 2015

If you live anywhere in the Northeast United States, you are probably contemplating moving to a warm tropical climate right about now. Fiji perhaps? Hawaii? Anything to spice up this frigid and dreary weather is welcomed with open arms. So when my friend Deana suggested that we go to a painting class on Valentine’s day, I was more than excited. On Saturday morning, Deana, her sister Danielle and I went to Pinot’s Palette in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Pinot’s Palette is an art studio where you can enjoy snacks, wine or any beverage you choose to bring while you paint the selected painting under the guidance of the art instructor. You can visit the website, look at the calendar and choose a painting that you would like to create, from a blank canvas. No painting by numbers here. When you arrive you are greeted by a receptionist who checks you in. Then you are instructed to find your assigned seat where you will find your name written in chalk on the table, a blank canvas and a palette (made of a paper plate) with assorted paints and various brushes.

 

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Yes, that’s glass of prosecco on the left. Nothing wrong with drinking while painting at 11am on Valentine’s Day for this single girl! If you think there is no way you can paint a picture from scratch you are probably mistaken. The instructor gives you step by step instructions and before you know it, you feel like an artist.

 

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In case you can’t tell, this is a love postcard. You can see part of the model painting above my head to the left. Not bad huh?

 

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Here are all three of our creations. Mine is on the far right. I loved how even though we are all painting the same thing, there is definitely room for your own style to shine through, as you can tell the subtle differences between our paintings. I would definitely go back!

On Sunday I decided to make flourless chocolate torte with coconut whipped cream. You have to have chocolate on Valentine’s day weekend so here it is. Sadly, I neglected to take a picture of the final product so you will have to use your imagination. This is the only thing I have.

 

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This torte is rich, chocolaty and almost fudge-like. It doesn’t have eggs, flour or butter but you would never know it. I topped it with coconut whipped cream. Amazing! So I’m sharing the recipe so you can make it right away and see what it looked like.

Flourless Chocolate Torte

3 cups of almond flour
2 cups of pitted dates soaked in water and drained to soften
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon of kahlua or any other chocolate liquor. I used Godiva chocolate liquor (optional)

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor. You may have to do this in batches depending on how big your food processor is. Process until everything is combined and forms a ball of “dough”. Line an 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper. A pie plate will work as well. Press the dough into your pie dish or cake pan with your fingers. You can also use parchment paper to press the dough down. The torte should be about an inch thick, give or take depending how big your dish or pan is. Place the pan in the freezer while you make the topping.

Topping

About 1 cup of chocolate chips
About 1 tablespoon of coconut oil

In a double boiler or a sauce pan, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil over medium heat and whisk until completely melted. Spread the chocolate mixture over the top of the torte and spread around with an off-set spatula or regular spatula. Put torte back in the freezer to set while you make the coconut whipped cream.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can of full fat coconut milk. Try to get a brand that is organic and doesn’t have a bunch of filler ingredients like guar gum or preservatives. It should only have coconut and water. I used Native Forest organic unsweetened coconut milk. This brand does have guar gum but it’s organic so at least it’s a little better. I have yet to find a brand that only has coconut and water but I know it exists.
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put the can upside down in the refrigerator over night or for several hours. You want the water to separate from the coconut cream. Take the can out of refrigerator, flip it over right side up and open it. You will see the water is on top. Carefully drain the water out. You can save this for smoothies. It freezes well. Then scoop the white coconut “cream” into a mixing bowl, add the vanilla and beat on high, just like you would for whipped dairy cream. This does not take as long. Whip on high for about 2 minutes.

Unmold the torte and put on a cake stand or plate. Top the torte with the whipped coconut cream and eat immediately! This torte tastes even better the next day, if it lasts that long. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

 

Enter Health Coach!

Good morning! This post is being brought to you by a newly certified holistic health coach!  For the past year I’ve been a part of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach certification program. It is considered the world’s largest nutrition school. What started as small nutrition school based in New York City is now an online program serving thousands of people all over the world each year. I cannot say enough good things about this school. It was an amazing experience and actually I secretly wish I was starting again. Is that weird? Who knew I would ever feel that way about school.  I had my virtual graduation ceremony last night. I am very excited to enter this new career as a health coach. I’m in the process of launching my own health coaching practice called, Happiness Illuminated. More updates on this will follow as they develop. 🙂

This morning I started up my usual 5:30 am class at the gym again. I let this slip by the wayside for the month of January. I have a hard time getting up in the pitch black to go workout. Anyone with me on this one? BUT I love getting the workout over with in the morning so I’m attempting this routine once again. I took a circuit training class this morning. The classroom is set up with about 11 stations and each was assigned a different exercise. You have one minute to do as many repetitions of the exercise before you move on to the next one. The class was done before I knew it. I came home and made this:

 

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I put an apple, a few oranges, basil, cilantro, and mint in the blender with a little water. Yes, mint!! Very refreshing.

Then I made a bowl of this:

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Cereal without the cereal! I put banana and blueberries in a bowl and sprinkled some raisins, almonds, and walnuts, then added some homemade almond milk. You can really add whatever you like. Strawberries work well with this. I love it because it’s grain-free and it satisfies a craving for cereal.

 

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I love how the milk turned a purple color from the blueberries. This is much better than the milk turning purple from artificial colors that are in those cereals I would have occasionally as a kid.   Here is my recipe for almond milk. So easy!

Easy Almond Milk

2 cups of almonds soaked in enough water to cover them for at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours
4 cups of water or coconut water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or about an inch of a vanilla bean

After you are done soaking the almonds, rinse them under water and place in a high power blender with the liquid of your choice. I have this NinjaBlend about 2-3 minutes until smooth. Strain into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve or this mesh bagIf you use a sieve you will need a spatula to press the almond milk through. This method takes a bit longer. Either way, you will have a bunch of almond pulp left over. You can save it and make a ton of things with it. It only lasts for a few days so use it quick! If you do a Google search, you will find so many uses.

Four cups of liquid is approximate. You can play around with the amount depending on how creamy you want the milk. Adding more water give you a lower fat version of this recipe. Adding less will make it very rich. I found that 4 cups per 2 cups of almonds gives the perfect consistency for me.

Feel free to add some dates, cinnamon, or any other spice to the blender before you blend the almonds. It’s so creamy and delicious.

 

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Happy Wednesday!

Breakfast smoothie bowl

Hello! I feel like it’s been forever since I wrote a post. I have lots to share in future posts about what’s been going on. For right now, I want to talk about this:

 

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Breakfast! I’ve been craving chocolate lately and when I crave something, I usually try to eat a healthier version of it so I created this chocolate semi-frozen concoction that is cold, creamy, chocolatey and crunchy all at the same time. You could absolutely make this for dessert but it’s healthy enough for breakfast too! After I did a quick workout this morning focusing on my arms and abs, I gathered the ingredients for breakfast. In the blender went:

1 frozen banana
1 cup of frozen strawberries
2/3-3/4 cup of almond milk or enough to get everything moving in the blender but not too much to make everything liquid.
2 heaping tablespoons raw cocoa powder

Blend until the mixture is smooth and takes on an ice cream like consistency. Scrape the sides of the blender down as needed to make sure everything is mixed in.  You can also make this in your food processor. Pour into a bowl and top with the following:

As pictured: dark cocoa almonds and pistachio power clusters from NatureBox and a sprig of mint.
Other topping ideas: chia seeds, sliced bananas, nuts, fresh strawberries, or shredded unsweetened coconut.

This totally hit the spot and satisfied my chocolate craving! Yay. Have a great rest of the day!

 

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Coming in future posts:

More recipes from the holidays.
My visit to my friend’s classroom to teach a cooking class.
Living your truth part II: a follow up to this post.
Finishing up school and becoming certified as a health coach.

 

Happiness Mondays #5

Hello! I am sitting here on this snowy, icy, Monday about to tell you how much I like mint in my smoothies. I know it’s probably not a topic that elicit warm thoughts but who cares. If you haven’t tried mint in your smoothies yet, do it!  I’ve had this smoothie or some variation of it just about everyday over the past week. It’s addicting. This is one thing that is making me happy this week.

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Mint pineapple smoothie

Mint pineapple smoothie

Mint Pineapple Smoothie

1/4 of a pineapple (about 4-5 chunks)
1 apple (I used pink lady)
2-3 oranges
handful of basil
handful of mint
handful of spinach
about 1/2 cup or so of coconut water or regular water to get things going

Put all ingredients in a blender. There’s something about the pineapple and apple combo that makes this very creamy and the mint adds a refreshing flavor. Enjoy!

Other variations: add 1/4 of a peeled cucumber, some lemons and limes.

Does anyone remember this?

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14,000 things things to be happy about by Barbara Ann Kipfer! I bought this book I don’t know how many years ago and I would just sit and browse through it. Written in list form, this book represents 20 years worth of things that made the author happy. She started the list in a spiral notebook and eventually it became a book. One of the reasons I like the book is because some of things don’t immediately elicit feelings of happiness until you think about it and you say, oh yeahhhh! hee hee. So cool.

Here are some of ones that I like:

“just happening upon a parking spot in the right place”

“the night smell, feel and wonder of October”

“the gentle sounds of a summer Sunday”

“infatuation”

“turning off all the lights except those on the Christmas tree”

I love the last paragraph of the forward:

“As you read through these pages, give yourself time to conjure up your own images-to reminisce, wish, and dream. I hope you will find, as I did, that happiness comes from noticing and enjoying the little things in life.”

That’s what it’s all about. Happy Monday!

Happiness Mondays #4

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas week. I spent the last several days with friends and family doing a lot of celebrating. Although this time of year can be hectic, I also love it because I think I spend extra time with people I love and also see family that I don’t see too often. I also have some yummy recipes to share  from the past few days but in due time. Here are this week’s tips to keep the happiness flowing:

1. Find an exercise you love: I’ve been all about the yoga lately. I joined Yoga Montclair about a month ago and took advantage of their new student offer. You pay $54 and get access to unlimited classes. I’m on a mission now to learn how to do a handstand. Anyway, I love yoga because I can go into the class in a not-so-great mood and I come out of the class more at peace and a sense of calm. It’s magic!!! If yoga is not your thing, then explore different forms of exercise that align with what works for you. Exercise doesn’t have to be yucky. It should be enjoyable.

2. Surround yourself with people you love: This may or may not include family! (Snicker). I was lucky enough to spend some time with good friends and my awesome extended family the past few days. Yesterday I met 2 of my close friends out for happy hour and we just laughed the whole time and I left the place feeling much better than when I walked in.

3. Start your day off with good, health food: I was starving after yoga this morning. It was an hour and a half class! I felt like having a fresh juice or a smoothie so I went to Asana House ordered the Coconut Smoothie. This smoothie had mango, banana, pineapple, mint, lime, ginger and coconut. It was so good and hit the spot. I don’t have a picture because I sucked it down before I was able to snap one. Sorry! I also ordered an omelette which was amazing. It had onions, peppers, cheese, avocado and spinach with some hot sauce.

This I was able to resist long enough to snap a photo:

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Yum! Now I’m off to spend more time with friends. I’m going to my friend’s house to make smoothies with her 3 kids. Have a wonderful Monday!

 


 

 

Question of the day: What will you today to keep or start the happiness flowing?

 

Merry Christmas Magic Bars

Merry Christmas! This is going to be a very short post because I’m actually taking a yoga class in about an hour. Yes, I’m working out on Christmas. First time ever! I wanted to share a recipe that I made for dessert last night. You may (or may not) remember the classic magic bar recipe that has been around for years. It’s made with a graham crust, then layered with shredded coconut, nuts, chocolate chips then drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. It’s one of the best things on the planet but it also has gluten which I try to avoid as much as possible. I wanted to find a gluten-free, “healthier” version and did a quick search and found this recipe courtesy of Brittany Mullins from Eating Bird Food. Thank you Brittany! I actually think it’s better than the original version. (Shhhh I hope my mom doesn’t hear me in heaven. She loved the original recipe and swore by it, but I think she would be very happy with this version too.)

The recipe includes sweetened condensed coconut milk that you make yourself. It’s incredibly easy to do! The crust is gluten-free and made with almonds, coconut, coconut oil, and maple syrup. The combination of everything is sweet and gooey and chocolatey all at the same time. I was so happy with the result! And it’s slightly healthier! Yay!

Crust:

  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used finely shredded)
  • ⅛ cup coconut oil, liquid
  • ½ tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Layers
  • 1 can (13.5 oz) full-fat coconut milk
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts or both!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a square (8×8) glass baking dish with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients for the crust in a large bowl and press firmly into the prepared pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until your crust is golden brown in color. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
  2. While crust is baking, in a saucepan over medium heat bring coconut milk and sugar to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 45 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture has reduced by half. The coconut milk mixture should be thick reduced to about ¾ cup. Remove from heat and cool slightly. After the crust has cooled, pour the sweetened condensed coconut milk over the crust and spread to the edges.
  3. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the condensed milk, then the flaked coconut, and then the pecans. Using your hands, press the mixture down a tiny bit until the milk soaks upward into the layers.
  4. Place in oven at 350 and bake for about 30 minutes, until edges are browning a bit. Remove from oven and cool for 30 to 60 minutes on a cooling rack. Once the bars have cooled a bit, place the pan in the refrigerator to allow the bars to set-up for at least two hours (or overnight). If you’re in a rush you could put the bars in the freezer for an hour instead.

After cooling, lift the parchment out of the pan and place bars on a cutting board or other flat surface. If the bars are coming from the freezer, you may need to let them thaw for a few minutes before cutting as they will be pretty firm. Cut bars into bars and enjoy!

 

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I hope you have a very Merry Christmas filled with peace, love and happiness.

Happiness Mondays #3: Living Your Truth

Hello! I hope you are ready do some celebrating this week. I can’t believe Christmas is Thursday! I wanted to keep the theme of my Monday posts but decided to dedicate it to one thing that will contribute to your happiness. Just a little food for thought. Last week, I had to step outside my comfort zone for a little bit. It was oddly liberating and uncomfortable all at the same time. As a side note, as I’m nearing the end of my health coaching program, I’m finding that I’m forcing myself to step outside my comfort zone more and more. Why? Why would I choose to feel uncomfortable when I can stay inside the little cocoon that I have built around myself where it is safe and warm? I’m learning it’s because that is the only way you are going to grow as a person and to be able to experience all of the wonderful things you were meant to on this earth. I believe we are all put here for a purpose and it’s up to us to figure out what that purpose is and fulfill it to the fullest extent. I believe in discovering this purpose, we are also challenged in a way that may make us feel a little, okay a lot uncomfortable, causing us to stay stuck and perhaps not follow the path that we were meant to follow. For instance, for me, starting this blog was stepping way out of my comfort zone and I hemmed and hawed over it and thought it to death for months before actually doing it. Creating this blog was something that I felt compelled to do. Ideas for the blog kept popping into my head and every time I would make a new recipe, I felt I wanted to share it. Those little whispers that we all receive that say, write that book or  start that business or those ideas that pop into our head that give us butterflies, are all things that are part of our purpose. It’s a part of living our truth and it’s our job to make sure we see it through.

Living your truth also means being completely honest with yourself and being transparent with the people in your lives. Now we all have things that we would never reveal to the people in our lives and that’s okay.  Not everybody has to be an open book. I’m talking about something that is a part of who you are and by not sharing that piece of you, it somehow makes you feel unsettled or left with a nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach. It could be a talent that you have but you don’t have the courage to share with the world or that new project that you have been meaning to start. For me it was feelings that I have for a very good friend of mine. I never wanted to share those feelings with him in fear of ruining the friendship or “making things awkward”. You know the corny saying, “the truth will set you free”. Well I never realized how true that was until I came to the realization that I needed to share these feelings with him if for no other reason than to reveal my truth and to be completely honest and open in our friendship. I haven’t told him yet but I shared my feelings for him with his 2 sisters and although it was extremely uncomfortable for me and a little embarrassing, I felt amazing after we talked. Stay tuned for more on when I talk to him.

Living your truth can take many forms and your expression of your truth may look different from what I described here. The point is to stop hiding the essence of what makes you, you from the world . What you have to offer may affect others in ways you can’t imagine. Thoughts?

Whew that was some heavy stuff. So to switch gears, I am going to share a recipe for a smoothie I threw together one morning last week. It’s so weird how a random combination of ingredients can turn out tasting so good. Here is how it turned out. Orange!!

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Pear Ginger Smoothie
2 ripe pears
1 apple
1 carrot
3-4 oranges
1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger root
a little water or coconut water to get everything moving.

Put all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. I love the orange color! Enjoy!

Question of the day: What is one truth about yourself that you are willing to reveal?

Chocolate for Breakfast?

Hello and happy Friday!! This has been a crazy week. More on that in a future post but I just wanted to pop in share my impromptu breakfast. With Christmas happening next week, I was feeling like a little chocolate this morning. Who can resist that? No, I’m not talking about eating a candy bar but I may or may not have done that on occasion. I’m talking about something a tiny bit more healthy than that. Although I still don’t recommend eating chocolate for breakfast daily but if you want to on occasion, then I say go for it!! On Sunday I made a gluten-free chocolate zucchini loaf and it’s absolutely delicious. I can’t take all the credit though. My friend Marie shared this recipe with me. Thanks Marie! The only thing I changed was I swapped out the honey for maple syrup and it worked really well. I also left out the walnuts but feel free to add about 1/4 cup of those to the mix. I think this would be amazing turned into a chocolate banana bread! Note to self. Stay tuned…

Chocolate Zucchini Loaf

2 cups shredded zucchini
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of coconut flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350°F
Grease your baking pan and line the pan with parchment paper. I used a loaf pan.
Using a mixer, mix the zucchini, coconut oil, eggs, maple syrup and vanilla together.
Mix the coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into the batter and let the batter sit for 5 minutes to absorb the liquids.
Mix in the chocolate chips into the batter.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool and serve. Store covered at room temperature for several days or in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Enjoy!
So after snacking on this all week, this morning I had the idea to break it up and mix it with some goat’s milk kefir. I bought goat’s milk kefir last week from whole foods and was a little skeptical because I never tried goat’s milk. I tried it when I got home and was hooked. It is very rich, thick and creamy and tastes like Greek yogurt. I thought that would pair well with the chocolate loaf. And it did! Almost like chocolate and whipped cream but healthier.  Happy Friday to me!

 

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