Who Needs Chocolate?!?

So, if you are anything like me at all, you have chocolate cravings from time to time!  Or sometimes, it’s just a craving for something sweet but knowing I shouldn’t eat anything sweet in that moment, a small nibble would suffice!  Well!  I’ve got a remedy for you!  Trim Healthy Mama came out with what they call Skinny Chocolate!  It’s basically coconut oil and cocoa and a natural no-calorie sweetener mixed together!  Coconut oil is used because it helps the chocolate firm up once cooled (chilled) and also because coconut oil is a way to rev up that metabolism engine!  If you google or Pinterest skinny chocolate, you will find all sorts of ideas and variations that people have come up with for this amazing treat!  And like the rest of the blogosphere, I’m no different!

So, I present to you today, my version of Skinny Chocolate!   I will say, I think this recipe will always be a work in progress for me but I’m pretty satisfied with it at the moment.  It’s basically tastes like dark chocolate and I’m good with that.  However, I’d like to come up with a way for a more milk chocolate tasting one sometime in the future!

Without further adieu…..

CHRISTINE’S SKINNY CHOCOLATE

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Ingredients:
1/4 cup Coconut Oil, melted
2 tbsp Good Quality Cocoa (I like Hershey’s special dark)
1 tbsp Heavy Cream
1/2 tbsp Cream Cheese
1 tbsp Truvia, (powdered in a coffee grinder or high powered blender cup)
1 pinch Mineral Salt

Directions:
Blend all ingredients together well (I actually just use a milk frother).  Pour into candy molds or the bottom of a pan to break apart later.  Place in the freezer to harden.

This candy needs to be kept chilled.  I find that the refrigerator sometimes isn’t even quite cold enough and it will melt somewhat in your hands.  But the freezer is a bit too hard.  So find what works for you!  But even frozen, it’s still awesome.  Totally works for those unexpected cravings!

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Kefir….it’s what’s for my snack!

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In our family, 50% of us suffer with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease).  And for several years now I’ve been intrigued about kefir and it’s benefits.  Due to this second diagnosis of one of our family members with Ulcerative Colitis, coupled with the fact that a generous Trim Healthy Mama Group Member offered me some of her grains, I decided to take the plunge and jump into making my own.  A quart of kefir at the store was running about $3.99.  I can get a gallon of milk for less than a dollar at my local Walmart.  The time spent on it is so minimal, I really had nothing to loose.

So jump in I did and I’ve not looked back.  My son (the one along with me who has the IBD) has actually deemed it very good and drinks it everyday.  So this was a huge win as he can be a bit picky when it comes to new and healthier versions of things!  At this point, three of the four of us are now daily kefir drinkers!  Double win!

So what exactly IS kefir?  And what benefits does it give us in our daily diets?  Healthline.com defines kefir as:  “…… a cultured, fermented beverage that tastes a great deal like a yogurt drink. It’s made using “starter” grains, just as sourdough bread has a “starter.” This starter is a combination of yeasts, milk proteins, and bacteria. It has a tart, creamy flavor, and it’s loaded with probiotic health benefits.”  Probiotics today are all the rage and many people are taking supplements for this very purpose.  And while supplements can be helpful if you find a reputable brand, kefir can serve this very same purpose with live beneficial bacteria.  But an advantage of kefir is that when you drink it, you are not only drinking the beneficial bacteria, you are also drinking the food the bacteria need to survive longer.  So, there is a greater chance the beneficial bacterial reach your digestive tract alive and ready to help ward off the non-beneficial bacteria that are invading our western-diet-lives.

The article I referred to above is a great overall view of what kefir is and it’s benefits.  Check the entire article out here.  And there are many others to back this up so just do a quick Google search if you’d like more information.

So, how do you make it?  Super Duper Easy let me tell you!

You first need some Kefir grains.  Here is a picture of what kefir grains look like:

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These grains are necessary to fermenting (not souring) the milk into kefir.  They are living organisms that work to ferment the milk into the yogurt-like drink!  Put a couple rounded tablespoons of these into a glass quart jar, top with a couple cups of your choice of cow’s milk, cover with a coffee filter or paper towel and a jar ring, and wait about 24 hours.  It should be placed in a decently warm spot in your home to allow for the fermentation to take place.  Once finished, strain off the milk (with a NON-METAL colander – don’t ever use metal with fermented products), place the grains back into a jar and pour in more milk for the next batch.

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Unstrained Kefir Grains

Now, with what you strained off the grains, you have kefir!  Just like that!  You can drink it plain if you wish but many people like to add a bit of fruit and a little sweetener.  I add a couple tablespoons of mixed frozen berries and 1 tsp of Truvia per batch.  Blend it in my blender and I have a smoothie-like drink that is oh so good for the gut!  I drink anywhere between 1 to 2 cups per day.

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Strained kefir

 

Now, before you blend in your add-in’s, you could also choose to do a double ferment.  This reduces even more of the milk sugar (taking the calorie count down) and gives the bacteria even more time to multiply.  In my home I do this for another 24 hours but depending on your preference you can do it for 5 or more hours.  Place the strained kefir into a clean quart jar, top with a plastic (not metal) lid and let sit in a warm area for your desired amount of time.  Then simply add in your flavors if you wish and you are good to go.  Refrigerate your fermented kefir until gone.

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Jar on left: Kefir grains in milk for first ferment.   Jar on right: Kefir for second ferment.

 

There you have it.  It is so simple.  There are more tips I could give you but I don’t want to overwhelm you with information.  If you are interested in making kefir, let me know and I could provide you with some grains next time mine have multiplied enough to give some away.  At that time, I could also give you further pointers and a detailed step by step process to make fermenting your own kefir successfully!

 

God’s Powerful Right Hand

We all, to some degree, are desperate in our search for comfort.  How often do we strive to remove any struggle or inconvenience from our lives simply because we are uncomfortable?  For me it can be trying to control my kids’ actions to achieve what’s best (in my eyes) for them to something as simple as not liking to put in the work to actually prepare and cook my food so I spend (way too much) money on gadgets I don’t need that add anxiety-inducing clutter to my home.  But what if there was a way to bring comfort (while enduring the struggle) without needing to do any of these things??  Would you want to know more?

The other night, I sat in with my husband as he read a chapter of scripture with our kids:  even though our kids are adults still in the home, this is something they do together before praying at bedtime.  They are currently reading in Revelation and that night’s verse was from Revelation 1.  In verses 17-18, John says “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one (emphasis mine).

It was late and my brain was shutting down for the night but still, for some reason, the phrase “he laid his right hand on me” struck me particularly.  Life is hard.  I feel busy but struggle to feel I accomplish anything of consequence.  Yes, I have to remind myself often, during times when I begin to feel sorry for myself, how many people have many more serious difficulties than I.  But, for anyone struggling, and lets be honest, we ALL do, we as believers can feel instant comfort at the thought of God placing his right hand on us.  But what does that actually mean?

Before we dive further into scripture, I wanted to find the specific significance of the right hand in the bible.  The Lexham Bible Dictionary says this about the right hand:  References to the right hand in Scripture refer either literally to most people’s dominant hand or metaphorically to prominence and strength. In patriarchal blessings, the preferred blessing was given with the right hand (Gen 48:17–20). To speak of someone’s right hand is to speak of their power (Exod 15:6, 12; Pss 18:35; 20:6; 63:8; 98:1). To sit at someone’s right hand is to sit in the place of honor (Psa 45:9; 80:16; 110:1; Acts 2:33; Heb 1:3).  In contrast, sitting at someone’s left side sometimes metaphorically indicates the place of disfavor (Matt 25:41). (1)

Clearly, references to the right hand in scripture hold significant importance.  The book of Isaiah is written to God’s people as they rebelled against him and were taken into exile.  In the middle portion of the book, God is comforting them about their current plight.  In chapter 41, verse 10, the ESV  states “…be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

Aren’t we just like the people of Israel?  We continuously rebel against God.  We respond to his call of repentance only to rebel again in another, or maybe, in the same way?  But God is relentless in his pursuit of us and comforts us in the process as we live out or own exile on this earth.  Furthermore, Psalm 138:7 says “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.”

So, when we are frustrated with our circumstances, feeling week or overwhelmed, feeling sorry for ourselves or simply want to feel the presence of God, remember that he is personal with us and strengthens, upholds, and comforts us with his strong and powerful right hand.  And one day we as believers (his sheep) will be placed at the right hand of Jesus (Matthew 25:32) who sits at the right hand of the Father!  What a day of rejoicing that will be!
(1) Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). Right Hand. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. x
Study conducted using Logos Bible Software.