Perfect sugar-free hot cocoa

Hello, from down the years! I know, I know, I don’t update the site much these days (grad school and all), but I wanted to post a recipe I came up with in desperation the other night.

You see, I was fully sugar-free for more than a decade. Then I began to let sugar creep its evil way back in to my diet (Watermelon Margaritas anyone)? Now, I’m back on the righteous path of eliminating processed sugars and corn syrups. But that means going without some things I CRAVE.

This time of year, it’s so tough not to give in on so many goodies, but I think for me the hardest is hot chocolate. So last week I finally broke down and decided to try honey as a sweetener, with low expectations. I mean, come on! Honey is really distinctive tasting!

I was successful, however, and here are the fruits of my labor:

Ingredients:

  • enough whole milk for everyone who wants a mug (whole milk is sooooo much better for you than the low-fat stuff)

Per cup:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp mild honey
  • 1 tsp Mexican vanilla (or substitute 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp water)
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa

Directions:

  1. Warm the milk on the stove. Don’t let it burn or boil! Stir frequently.
  2. When the milk is warm, place the 1/2 to 3/4 tsp of honey in the bottom of each mug and microwave for a few seconds until the honey is very runny. I use the smallest amount because I like a “darker” cocoa.
  3. Add the other “per cup” ingredients to each mug and stir the living daylights out of it! This should make a smooth, liquidy chocolate syrup.
  4. Pour 8 to 10 ounces of hot milk into each mug, stir and enjoy!

Here are some suggested changes:

  • add a pinch of cinnamon to the mix with the cocoa. Just a pinch!
  • add a drop of red chile honey. Oh, mamacita! Just a delightful, barely there whisper of heat makes the hot cocoa so good! And be sure your red chile honey comes from New Mexico so it has the right flavor.
  • skip the cocoa altogether, but double the vanilla for “hot vanilla”, a favorite from my days running a b&b. Add half a pinch of nutmeg to the heated honey and vanilla and stir it in really well before adding the milk.

Enjoy guilt-free hot cocoa all winter long!

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Tostada salad fusion creation

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I have no idea what to call this thing, but trust me–I’m a genius when it comes to using up stuff that would otherwise just be “leftovers”! So this time, I had a little bit of browned hamburger left over from tacos, a couple of leaves of lettuce, and two tostada shells. Cook up some rice and add some seasoning, and this 5-ingredient meal was ready in no time!

For this recipe I cooked the rice in my rice cooker. If you don’t have one, follow the directions for a small amount of rice.

Ingredients:

  • Leftover browned hamburger (about half to three-quarters of a cup)
  • Rice cooked in rice cooker (smallest amount, for me three quarters of a cup before cooking)
  • Soy sauce to taste
  • Lettuce
  • Tostada shells
  • Italian dressing or balsamic vinaigrette

Directions:

1. Cook the rice as directed for your rice cooker (or on the stove top if necessary).

2. When the rice is thoroughly cooked, turn the cooker to “Warm” or the stove to the lowest heat setting and add the hamburger and soy sauce to taste. For me, that was about 5 shakes of the bottle!

3. Stir this mixture together and allow to heat a bit, stirring occasionally. When warm, remove from heat.

4. Place tostada shells on a plate, heap a generous amount of the rice/hamburger mixture on the tostada, and cover with lettuce. Drizzle a small amount of dressing over the top.

5. Eat with your fingers because messy is yummy!

Tuna avocado salad

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In true “whatever is in the kitchen” mode, I was just not in the mood to grocery shop the other day. I had everything I needed for my Pork chops in tomatoes, but I didn’t want the hassle of pulling out (and, of course, cleaning!) the electric skillet. So I raided the cupboards and fridge, and what I found was:

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Pork chops in tomatoes

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Did I mention I love my new electric skillet? Well, my mother used hers a lot when we were kids and now I’m beginning to understand why. So I picked her brain for some of my favorite recipes from childhood and one I’ve been wanting to make is her really yummy pork chops in tomatoes. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been to the grocery store in over a week and, since this blog is, after all, about what I have in my kitchen on any given day, I thought I’d see if there was another route I could go with what I did have.

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Bacon sandwich

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A friend recently said something on Facebook about being in England and needing to find a place that served a good bacon sandwich and my ears pricked up. You know I looked it up online! What could be better? Bacon, butter, toppings if you want them. And then, for some, a mysterious substance known ubiquitously as “brown sauce”, and clearly not available to me in my current location, but which looks suspiciously like brown gravy in a bottle.

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My world famous guac

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I can honestly say that people the world over have eaten and raved about my guacamole. I am fortunate to have friends from Australia to South Africa and England to Espanola (NM, that is!).

What makes mine different? Well…I don’t do mushy. For years, I couldn’t force guacamole down because it is always mashed into a goo the consistency of baby p…well…you know. So when I saw it done without mashing, I thought to myself–that’s the guac for me! Over the years I have refined the recipe, but it pretty much always includes things that are naturally in my kitchen because I use them for lots of different recipes.

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