Random Thankfuls–Thankful Thursday

waterGrateful for the wind whipping the water around, the mallard digging for something under the water who kept wiggling his little duck tush in the air (no pics of him, so sorry!)

I’m grateful for my heating pad, the music, my husband’s snuggles, a delicious local apple before bed…and I’m off to bed, thankful for many blessings big and small.


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Menu Plan Monday: Maple!

cheryl's pralines

What a beautiful weekend! The snow is thawing, and all I want to do is go outside and enjoy the mild weather. Hope it’s lovely where you are, too.banana chocolate tart

Last week was a tasty one, with my new love, Chocolate Banana Tarts, stealing the show. And this week I’m hosting Menu Plan Monday with the theme of maple. If you’re interested in hosting any time soon, do contact Heather of Celiac Family.

I adore maple, and many of my favorite recipes have maple as a sweetener, like my Amazing Chocolates, my Maple Pralines, Nana Skillet Bread, Hazelnut cookies and my Macadamia Maple Butter . My Sweet Potato Pie uses maple sugar, and so does my Chocolate Chestnut Cake, which I totally have to post really soon. I also adore Shirley’s Maple Caramel Chews   and I can’t keep track of how often I’ve made those lately!

Maple is also a low FODMAP sugar, which can help for many tummy troubles, so I’ve been trying to play with maple recipes more often. I’m also excited to see what foods with maple you share!

Sad as it is, I realize that I can’t simply eat maple sweetened desserts all week, so onward to the food!

Kale and beef in chestnut sauce

Tuesday:lettuce bowl

Herbed chicken with roasted rosemary cauliflower


Leftover chicken on greens from my happy new aerogarden!


Home late—freezer rummaging time

Coconut Chickpea Stew

Fun maple recipe: my new maple walnuts. As soon as I get a pretty pic, I’ll post them.

And everyone else?

Lori of Gluten Free Week joins us with Maple Baked Beans to “fill” her maple requirement! (just kidding–no requirement to use our theme ingredient) She rightly points out that real maple syrup is so much more amazing than the fake stuff.

Elisabeth from the Girl who couldn’t eat anything teases with talk of Cauliflower Alfredo that caught my eye right off the bat! She also posts on some mini vegan cheesecakes.  She plans to have breakfast for dinner, which sounds like fun.

Kendra of the peaceful mom joins us with her adorable Apple Sandwiches, and her Italian Chicken is similar to one of our staples, too.


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Banana Chocolate Tarts: Fast and Fresh Dairy Free Time Trials

banana chocolate tartI haven’t hid my lifetime love of the Olympics, and it seems the closest I’m destined to get is the So Delicious Fast and Fresh Dairy Free Time Trials from Go Dairy Free and So Delicious. Works for me! I think these babies belong on the medal stand, because these pudding tarts are light, delicious, super simple, and can be made in less than 5 minutes. They’re dairy-free, vegan, extremely allergen friendly and Paleo friendly, and the ingredients are all nourishing.

I love the chocolate banana combo. My Chocolate Banana Mousse is one of our go-to favorites,Fast-and-Fresh-Dairy-Free-Time-Trials-Recipe-Contest but it requires a Vitamix and a half day of chilling, so that recipe wasn’t up for the time trial challenge. However, I’m pretty sure this will be a new favorite since Mr. Dude loves it as much as I do.

I use frozen bananas because, seriously, who doesn’t have a spare frozen banana with dreams of gold and glory? If you use a frozen banana, the chocolate forms nifty chocolate “flecks” that add a fun texture. If you’ve only got fresh, that does work also but the texture is smooth, which is also yummy.

The banana chocolate pudding can go into prepared mini-tart shells, or purchased graham cracker mini-pie crusts. If you’re enchanted with the cuteness of mini-tart pans but don’t want to make your own crust, buy a pie crust and just press down into a mini-tart pan and pre-bake, or just use a raw nut and date crust. Or, go crust-free and enjoy the pudding in custard cups.banana chocolate

chocolate shavings or chips for garnish

3 prepared mini tarts or mini shells, or 3 custard cups

Puree yogurt, banana, stevia, vanilla in a food processor for 1 minute or until smooth. Melt chocolate in the microwave, which takes 90 seconds, or use a double boiler. Spoon melted chocolate into the food processor and pulse for 60 seconds to incorporate.

Scoop into mini-tart pans or custard cups, and serve immediately. Garnish with chocolate shavings or get creative.


For the batch above, I used a modified crust from this recipe, but any dairy-free crust will do.

Update: I’m sending this over to Gluten-Free Wednesdays, co-hosted by Linda of Gluten-free Homemaker, Shirley of gluten free easily and Lynn of Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

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Winter Gardening: Thursday Thankful

lettuce yumYay! Isn’t my lettuce too cute for words? Winter isn’t exactly my favorite season. Between the cold, the snow and ice…yeah, I’m so over that. So somewhere along the way I decided I needed to get to see something GREEN and GROWING for a change to make life more wonderful, and so I got an Aerogarden for the holidays.little lettuce

It’s been fun. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect–it seemed like people use the gardens for herbs, but I already have herbs outside. This year herbs are currently surrounded by a snow moat, so perhaps they would have come in handy, too. Ah well. So for my first go, I opted for lettuce.

Above right, we are at 2 weeks  of lettuce growth. Below is the “harvest” at 4 weeks.

lettuce bowlIt’s been kinda exciting to watch it grow. I was away for a week, and as you can see, I got quite a nice treat when I came back–enough for a decent sized salad! And the neat part is that I love lettuce, and I forgot that. I always eat baby greens and mix it with other stuff, and I forgot that I actually enjoy the taste of lettuce, on its own. So it’s been fun to have lettuce “snabrains!cks” along the day.

The aerogrow lives at my Fairfax office because the  felis destructus brigade has a long and illustrious history of plant genocide.

I am tempted to buy one of the bigger gardens for my other office to try for kale…we shall see. They do have kits to MYO mix, and that’s what I’m going to try next, and I’ll see how that goes!

So having something grow has brightened my days and expanded my lunch horizons. Especially since the groundhog cleared me out of veggies last summer, I think my new toy and I are going to be very good friends.

How do you keep life bright through the wintertime? And what are you thankful for this Thursday?

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A Thursday Thankful Assortment Box

choc brazilnutToday’s thankful is a bouquet of mini thankfuls: Thankful for fun recognition from the Washingtonian, thankful for my ability to receive it, thankful for the Olympics and thankful for Brazil nut chocolates!

I was surprised and very appreciative to see…ME! written up in the Washingtonian as one of the area’s best nutritionists. I’m honored and really appreciate it. I do love my job and work very hard, and yet often I focus on where I could be doing more, so it’s kinda nice to get the opportunity to receive positive feedback.

And it’s lovely to be at a point in my life where I can (sometimes) take in good stuff mini washingtoninawithout feeling…well…weird, or overwhelmed, or search like mad for the other Cheryl Harris they must be talking about. That’s often been a struggle for me, and it’s so frequent that I see people, often women, duck and run for cover when compliments come their way. It’s definitely still a process, and it’s nice to see ways I’ve changed and grown.

I am also enjoying the Olympics tremendously. It’s such a wonderful thing to see the artistry and grace, and so beautiful to see people shining at what they do best, and showing their gifts. I absolutely love Jason Brown, men’s figure skater from the U.S. and there have been so many breathtaking performances. It’s strange for me to spend so much time watching videos, but so gratifying to have the pleasure to vicariously see the joy and marvel at what they can do.

Last but not least, I’ve made a variation on my Amazing Chocolates (pic above) to make them even more awesome! I’ve added in chopped Brazil nuts and coarse sea salt. For me, the chocolate/Brazil nut/salt combo is the epitome of excellence. The delicious Ms. Shirley of GFE was kind enough to include them in her mega chocolate roundup.

Oh yeah, I’m also hugely thankful we’ve got power! Fingers crossed that it stays on, and that our trees stay in their upright and locked positions.

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Valentine’s Day Round Up

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. For years, I made batches almond cookies with pink frosting, and I haven’t been motivated to do that particular tradition post-gfree yet. However, I’ve more than made up for it in chocolate. Here are a bunch of my favorites for Valentine’s day for someone you love…and hopefully you’ve remembered to include yourself in that “someone you love”, too!

My very favorite new love:haz buttercups

Amazing Chocolates or Hazelnut Buttercups. I’ll be trying them tomorrow with a “caramel” filling. Fingers crossed!





fudge rose


Mint Bittersweet Fudge:

Sounds like a sugar bomb, but it’s actually not, thanks to a few magical ingredients.





tuxedo strawberriers

Tuxedoed Strawberries Fruit in tasty formal ware. What’s not to love?



Chocolate Raspberry Pie Yes, there’s a secret ingredient, but don’t let that scare you. Bloggers at the Washingtonian tried it and gave it a thumbs up!

Hubby’s favorites:


Chocolate Covered Candied Orange Peels A favorite of many of my husbands, and many of our friends.

thanks cakechocolate hearts

E’s Cake (aka chocolate hazelnut torte) I was so lucky that one of my favorite torte recipes just happened to be gluten-free.



Not in a chocolate mood? (first, just checking–are you okay?) lately my favorite sweet fix has been Shirley’s 3 Ingredient Maple Carmel Chews.

What’s your favorite Valentine’s day treat?

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Thankful for a Wake up Call

Today’s “Thankful Thursday” theme is pretty easy. 5 years ago today, I was in an oncology unit at Virginia Hospital Center. I’d been sick, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAreally sick for a few months, and tests seemed to show that I had leukemia. The good news was that I didn’t—I did have neutropenia, which feels supremely and epic-ly bad and can still kill you, but no cancer. Whew.

But it was an experience I’ll remember forever, mainly in a good way.

It was a wake up call, and mostly a rude awakening. I was always somewhere else in my mind, either worrying about what I’d done wrong, or worrying about what I was GOING to do wrong next. Planning for tomorrow as a stepping stone to somewhere when I would finally get it together and life began.

Life was a Mad libs.

I need to do ____because I’m (afraid of/intimidated by/can’t say no to/flattered by/insecure that I’ll never get the opportunity again) ____and sooner or later I’ll learn to (love myself/say no/make better choices/get my head out of my tush) and then life will be good. Once I get____ done, I’ll (take time off/take better care of myself/pay more attention to those I love).

Sound familiar?

I’d start living once I figured it all out, but until then it was just a dress rehearsal.

Except I finally realized that I couldn’t count on figuring out how to do the whole “real life thing” sometime down the road. The shock of realizing I might only have a few weeks was enough to shake me awake. Or at least, more awake.

When I realized that I didn’t know how long I had, life came into sharp focus. All I wanted was to learn how to accept myself fully, and love myself completely. I cared about relationships with the people and fur-balls I love. Everything else fell off my radar.

Initially, I called Mr. Dude. As soon as he answered the phone, he started ranting–apparently, I was so nervous that morning that I left the door ajar, and it blew open. Of course, it was a freezing day, and I was getting an earful on heating bills.

And I told him that I just had a bone marrow biopsy.

*Poof*! Just like that, the heating bill fell into the “your argument is invalid” category.

Having that intense fear shaped my decisions about work and about life. What to include, and what wasn’t worth the effort. I made choices more un-apologetically, and chose to end certain relationships that aren’t healthy. I chose to add in more days off on my calendar. The fear of dying gave me the permission to be more conscious about how I was living.

I don’t mean to give the impression that I left the hospital and began life as an enlightened being and floated away on a cloud of peace and goodness. In fact, I made some colossally bad choices.  Yes, I still get bent out of shape over small and trivial things, but I’m definitely different as a result of it, even 5 years later. In my experience, there’s sohaz buttercupsme kernel of good that can come out of even the most challenging experience, and I’m tremendously thankful that it did help open my eyes to what matters in this life.

It reminds me of this awesome video that inspires the heck out of me.

Oh, and speaking of the things in life that really matter…chocolate post up yesterday!

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Amazing Chocolates or Hazelnut Buttercups

haz buttercupsAlright, so the chocolate votes win!

I couldn’t wait to post these. I feel like a 4th grader, beaming with pride, waiting for show and tell time to share them with you.

It’s kinda crazy how good these are, and how easy they are to make. Figuring out the right formula was a total beast, but now that I’ve got it *poof!* it’s magic. Since I can make delicious vegan, “everything free” paleo-friendly chocolates in less than 5 minutes, I may now be done with chocolate bars for good.

So I wanted to make my own chocolates. And I seemed hell-bent on finding every way there was to fail at it. Maple sugar, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, too much fluid…none of them worked well. They seize, the get grainy…all sorts of ick. And I know there are cocoa butter/cocoa powder recipes out there, but (IMHO) the taste is great, and the mouthfeel is just wrong. But these babies…they’re pretty marvelous, even if I do say so myself.mah chocolates

It’s so amazing to me how my body responds to cane sugar, even a small amount. I have some, I want more,  I have more, I want more…and repeat. So yes, I can and do often eat them mindfully, but I need to do it deliberately and it takes effort.

However, I have one (or two) of these and I say, oh, that was tasty. And I’m done. My body is happy.

If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can probably eyeball it.

What you’ll need:

Add ins: chopped nuts, nut butters (I love macadamia butter, hazelnut butter and Brazil nut butter), unsweetened cherries, toasted coconut flakes, etc.

Candy mold trays and/or mini liners

For the small molds, I use about 1/8 tsp add ins. For the hazelnut butter cups, I use a scant 1/4 tsp.

In a heavy glass bowl, nuke the cocoa mass and cocoa butter for 90 seconds, or do it over a double boiler. Microwave the maple syrup for 10 seconds, or have it at room temp. Once the chocolates are thoroughly melted, quickly add the maple syrup and mix thoroughly. Add in stevia and ground beans. Allow to cool down for a few minutes, stirring every 30 sec.

Pour chocolate into a mold and layer the chocolate with add ins.

ALLOW TO COOL COMPLETELY. This will take a few hours. (This is the only hard step. Best of luck)

*Notes: I presume vanilla extract works, but I haven’t tried it.

BONUS: this should work on a low FODMAP diet if you use FODMAP friendly “fixins” (almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut) and either omit the stevia drops or make sure you have one without glycerine. Of course, you can only have a few!

You can easily double this recipe.

I’m submitting these to Ricki’s Wellness Weekends. Hop on over to see other yummy eats & treats!

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A recipe tease, & odds and ends

I’ve gotten behind on posting recipes, so I’d love your input.

Which do you want to see next:

maple glazed walnuts





Maple glazed walnuts

mah chocolates



Homemade vegan & sugar free chocolates




ultimate roasted broccoli


Ultimate roasted broccoli



I’ve posted a new update on new fish recommendations here. They’re pretty significantly different, so do give them a look!

and the cookbook giveaway is still open until Feb 8th.


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Thankful for Edgar

edgarEverybody say hi Edgar! Edgar is my dragon co-pilot. Just for the record, he’s not a hippo, and he’s not a dinosaur, thankyouverymuch. He’s a dragon, and generally a happy dragon. To tell you the truth, I’m not a happy driver. Although I have lived in NY and MA, I never drove much when I was there. Since an accident in the snow a few years, it’s definitely a struggle. Traffic gets me kinda jumpy, and so does snow, ice and crazy people. So perhaps DC isn’t the place for me this winter, but here we are.

Seeing Edgar’s happy little face makes the drive more peaceful. I mean, if the dragon in your car isn’t mad or breathing fire, the guy who cut me off can’t be THAT bad, right? I appreciate his vote of support, and as strange as it sounds, I do think I’m more relaxed with him on my dashboard.

And no, I was not driving when I took Edgar’s pic.

Apparently the dragon love has gotten trendy, so if you need a smile, do check out this letter from a 7 year old asking the Australian Science Agency for a dragon for Christmas.

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