Mel welcomes you to her website devoted to promoting a peaceful, healthy, and grounded life. She appreciates you stopping by to review topics loved by her: one bright and bubbly southern mama. Please read the "about" section to begin which includes her background and credentials. Disclosure: This website does contain affiliate links.
Two things: Please share my blogs on Facebook, if you enjoy. Also, follow me on Pinterest! Let’s be “Pin” Pals and Share our Discoveries. (Send me a message on Pinterest and I will follow you back!) –Hugs, Mel
I wanted something very chocolatey yesterday and decided to incorporate a few items I had in my cabinets and refrigerator to make some fudge fat bombs. They ended up very delicious but not at all shiny like some I’ve seen before. The taste is excellent though! I have to limit myself to two of these a day because of a pretty serious chocolate addiction. So, here it goes…
¾ cup natural peanut or almond butter
3 tbsp. Hershey’s powdered cocoa (tastes the best)
½ tsp vanilla
3 tbsp. coconut oil
2 tbsp. salted butter
3 tbsp. sour cream
1-2 tbsp. powdered stevia blend of your choice (Swerve is a good brand.)
In a small pan, mix almond butter, Hershey’s cocoa, coconut oil, and salted butter until blended. Then, add sour cream and stir well. Turn off heat and add vanilla and powdered stevia blend. Stir. Add to candy molds and refrigerate until hardened. Makes about 20.
While in Georgia, I was able to create a new recipe for Keto Strawberry Cake to take with us to the beach. My sister graciously asked her sweet friend Cherie if we could stay at her Mexico Beach condo for a long weekend get-away while I visited. Thus, I figured having a keto sweet treat in the refrigerator there would be great to avoid temptation. The recipe is listed below. I discovered I will make a few minor adjustments on my new attempt at this recipe but have went ahead and included these for you so your outcome will be optimal.
Keto Strawberry Cake with Surprise Center
2 cups almond flour
1 ½ cup coconut flour
½ cup coconut-almond milk
¾ cup of powdered Swerve (or other erythritol confectioner’s sweetener)
¾ cup butter (softened)
7 large eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tbsp. baking powder
Strawberry sugar-free gelatin packet 8.5 ounces*
Coffee bean grinder
Three cake pans (or use 2 as detailed below)
Cream Cheese Frosting:
16 oz. cream cheese (softened)
2 sticks butter (softened)
1 1/3 cup of powdered Swerve (or another brand of confectioner’s erythritol)
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
Fresh Raspberries and Strawberries
First, preheat the oven to 350⁰. Next, use a clean coffee bean grinder to grind your almond flour in a soft cake-like flour. (This takes several steps if your grinder is small like mine.) Then, add this cake-like flour to your mixing bowl. Add coconut flour, baking powder, and strawberry gelatin packet to the almond flour. Stir. Then, in another bowl, add Swerve and butter, beat until well mixed. Add eggs, slowly, and blend. Then, add coconut-almond milk along with vanilla extract. Mix well. Then, add your flour mixture, slowly, to the butter bowl. Blend.
Then, you will want to add 1/3 of cake mix to the three different pans. Bake for approximately 25 minutes (check periodically as oven times vary). If you only have 2 cake pans, you can cook the first two layers and then bake the last pan afterwards.
While the cake layers are baking, prepare the cream cheese frosting. Also, take the warm cake layers out of the pan and place on cooling racks within 5 minutes of taking out of the oven. Plus, if you want a surprise fruit center, as soon as the cake layers are taken out, cut the center out with a small cup by pressing firmly and removing the center from the layer. Allow the layers to cool before frosting. Enjoy!
*If I could have located some stevia sweetened strawberry gelatin, I would have used it. GramZero is one brand that makes this. However, I didn’t visit a store that had this option.
Items to purchase in order to make the cake are listed below:
It is almost time for Christmas! My family and I have been watching Christmas movies for weeks now and I LOVE our cozy and festive home. Looking out and seeing snow falling while sipping a warm beverage is blissful. Also, curling up under a blanket, enjoying some wonderful tea, and having a snack after exploring the cold outdoors is comfortable. Thus, I wanted to share my newest favorite “cozy time” drink and snack.
Normally, I drink Mighty Leaf whole leaf teas because of the many flavors and high quality (which is why you see this link featured on my website.) However, as I was perusing the grocery store aisle for ingredients to make a fabulous keto dessert for Christmas dinner, I came across a Bigelow brand tea that caught my eye! It is the Toasted Coconut Almond Bark flavor. I immediately thought – tea latte!
So, if you are looking for a wonderful afternoon winter tea and snack, the below coupling is pretty splendid. I recommend trying both of these whether you enjoy together or not. Happy Snacking!
Coconut Maple Tea-Based Latte
2 coconut maple tea bags, brewed
1-2 TBSP of Sugar Free Maple Syrup
¼ cup of Heavy Whipping Cream
Strawberry Shortcake Candies
1 17g Box of Sugar-Free Strawberry Jell-O (I can’t seem to find natural flavored gelatin here so may need to order online, but in the meantime, I have an option even though I don’t prefer foods with any artificial ingredients.)
1 28 g Box of Unflavored Gelatin
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
85% dark chocolate bar
Your favorite candy mold containers
For the latte, you will simply mix all ingredients together and sip. For the candies, you will put the whipping cream in a pot over medium heat. Add the Strawberry and plain gelatin and stir until mixed well. Then, immediately pour into the molds of your choice. For an extra bit of heart healthy dark chocolate, leave a little room in the top of some of your candies to pour 85% -90% dark chocolate! Put in refrigerator for approximately 10 minutes to harden and then place in your favorite glass jar in the refrigerator for quick snacking any time.
There has been so much going on recently that I’ll have to combine two topics and share the others with you next week.
First, I’ll discuss Christmas Towne! (By the way, I literally just said that in my best movie trailer announcer voice.) In my former small town in Georgia, I always looked forward to a fun community Christmas celebration that occurred the first Saturday of December. It was always top-notch with special performers, amusement rides, local dancers and singers, and more Christmas cheer than can be put into words. The kick-off was a Christmas parade and the entire thing was FREE, well, except for the vendors. Last year, my daughter and I prepared a thermos full of hot cocoa and sat on the street, along with hundreds of other people, and watched the parade. Initially, I thought our move here in Alaska would end that. However, I got a surprise when I discovered an event for local communities that lasted more than one day.
Last weekend, we went to a Boy Scout camp turned Christmas Towne in Chugiak, Alaska. I thought it would be a fun outing for the family since there were supposed to be free crafts for visitors to create, reindeer, and a Santa Clause. When we arrived, we began strolling through the village to eventually get greeted by a lady. She asked us if we knew where we were going or whether we needed help. Of course, we answered that we needed help. She pointed out things that were going on in the Towne. Since we went with our neighbors down the street, we had company too, which was nice. There were definitely crafts for children (and adults) to create in the main building where Santa was located. Caris and I wanted to take a picture with Santa, which we did, but Santa ended up not being very nice. In fact, he mocked my southern accent, openly, and with a laugh. I almost allowed my good-spirit to fade away and comment how Santa shouldn’t do that, but decided it was pointless. Instead, I decided it wasn’t worth him crushing my spirits and moved on cheerfully to the next location.
After we finished crafting, we met a reindeer. Caris really enjoyed it. The wonderful lady who was responsible for the reindeer told a great story about her job as the oldest elf and intrigued us all. We also had a snowball fight! There was a huge field of synthetic snowballs that wouldn’t melt and we all spent about 15 minutes playing around with those. Another feature at the Towne was a Smores making area where anyone could spend time warming up and, if desired, make some smores. All-in-all, it was a very fun day and it was FREE!
Now, to change subjects, you know I can’t leave you without a wonderful keto recipe creation. Yesterday, I made a delicious keto pizza with a cauliflower-pesto crust. It really tasted amazing with our bacon topped side salad. The recipe is below.
2 bags of cauliflower florets
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP of your favorite pesto
A clean kitchen towel
½ cup of Mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Your favorite pizza sauce
Your favorite pizza toppings
Steam cauliflower with the smallest amount of water needed to do so. Drain. Then, put cauliflower in Vitamix (or whatever mixer you own) and make into a smooth paste like texture. (I received a Vitamix over 5 years ago from Micah and it is the best machine for kitchen creativity. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about mine. There is a link below if interested in checking it out.) Then, dump cauliflower onto the middle of a clean kitchen towel. Start getting water out of the paste. I pull together like a bag and push out as much as I can. My towel held so much water it began dripping! So, I opened it up and used some clean paper towels to get the remaining fluid off.
Next, preheat oven to 450 degrees and put cauliflower paste into a bowl. Add the garlic powder and pesto to mixture and mix well by hand. Once mixed, put cauliflower mixture onto a non-stick sprayed tinfoil covered pan. Shape the mixture into the pizza shape you like. (I always prefer a circle.) Make sure it isn’t too thin, but you definitely don’t want it too thick or it won’t be crispy. I sprinkle a little more garlic powder on it at this stage. Bake for 12 minutes until starting to look brown on edges. Take out of oven and spread a thin amount of pizza sauce onto paste. Add meat (if you want.) I added ground turkey. Then, top with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. Bake for 7-10 more minutes, based on your oven’s cook time until top is brown and cheese looks bubbly. Serve with a side salad. Our side salad had mini bell peppers, diced boiled eggs, cheese, and bacon on it.
One of my favorite meals of all time is a hamburger and French fries. Yes, I said that. The sometimes coined “All American Meal” is one of my favorites. There are certainly some combos that aren’t worthy of eating but I always like the hamburgers I make at home. While I typically do not need a bun or any type of bread to make that meal complete, I do always feel that fries are needed. So, when I started thinking I wouldn’t be able to have fries very often because potatoes are certainly a no-no for a keto-eater, I was admittedly a little sad. However, I started thinking that vegetables could serve as a decent substitute. I looked in the refrigerator and the only vegetable in the crisper were carrots. I thought to myself that these little wonders could be transformed into something crispy and delicious, couldn’t they? Even though carrots do contain some carbohydrates, these little crispy snacks are healthy and there would be a daily limit. (Shew!)
The first night I made these fries, we ate salmon and mashed cauliflower with them. My son came home from work and said, “Mom, I thought you weren’t eating any potatoes. These sweet potato fries are good.” I giggled and then quickly told him he was eating carrot fries. He was genuinely shocked. I was genuinely happy! So, without further delay, the recipe is below. I will likely play around with different vegetables and different spices in the near future and will be certain to share the successes with you.
5 medium carrots
4 TBSP of olive oil
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
1 TBSP of dried mustard
2 TBSP of McCormick Salad Supreme seasoning
This recipe is the very simple. You will put the oil, Parmesan, mustard, and seasoning in a bowl and mix well, Then, put the cut carrots (in the shape of fries) in the bowl and mix until thoroughly covered. Put the covered carrots on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, flip the fries. Then, cook for another 20 minutes or until the desired crispness is reached. (I like mine very crispy.)
Sociology is a fascinating subject. After all, humans are interesting. We do some outrageous things that can’t be explained. We also do some seemingly boring things day-after-day for strange reasons. (Now, let us cue the bright lights on the word “DIET.”)
As you know, my family eats whatever I cook. This is because the other members rarely cook. I am the meal planner, grocery list maker, shopper, and cook/baker/chef all wrapped in one. They love it when my cooking experiments are delicious. However, they don’t necessarily complain when they don’t turn out as expected. I have been cooking since I was about 13 years old. When you are a “latch key kid” you figure out how to cook pretty early so I am no stranger to the kitchen.
Most recently, I have been eating a ketogenic diet. The reason behind this change is because I read tons of articles about it being the best way to beat the battle against haywire hormones that can cause belly bulge in the 40s. Plus, after the initial 2-week period on the diet, energy levels should go up and keto-dieters rarely get hungry. This all sounds good to me, not that I have been excessively tired but more energy can’t be bad.
So, in a nutshell (no pun intended), the keto diet is all about a higher percentage of fat, a medium percentage of protein, and a very small percentage of carbohydrates. In fact, the carbohydrates ingested usually come from the small amounts in avocados and other vegetables, but berries are okay to consume too. My “no pun intended” phrase was based on the fact that nuts of all kinds (walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans) are consumed quite often on this diet. The cool thing is when you eat a ketogenic diet, your body should begin burning fat for fuel. I purchased a book about this recently to understand more about the process. In fact, Ramos (2016) gives the percentage breakdown based on a 2000-calorie diet of approximately 70% fat calories, 20% protein calories, and 5% carbohydrate calories. While I am not going to go into too much detail about the book, I did want to mention to you in case you are interested in finding out more about this way of eating. There are a lot of resources out there for you to review, including her book.
Furthermore, my husband and I were talking about this diet the other day which prompted me to consider whether I was being duped into following this newest diet trend. After all, trends of any kind are fueled by society and are created by someone (in American society, it is typically created by someone wanting to make more money.) Diet trends could most definitely be considered fads that come quickly into our view (which can be very easy to do these days with social media). From well-positioned ads, retailers and advertisers can make us believe just about anything. If we see it enough, it must be good, right? This is not always the case. One of the things I like to point out in the classroom when we discuss media is the fact that marketing is very calculated. In fact, my dear friend Rebecca had a marketing book from one of her undergraduate classes. She and I compared sociology and marketing notes for us to contemplate the connection. Then, she let me borrow it to share with students. Can you guess what one entire section (multiple chapters) featured? You guessed it! It discussed sociology so marketing executives can understand people better to sell us more products. They want to understand us all regardless of our family situation, gender, race, religion, etc. They want to know what makes us tick, so to speak.
Once you understand the marketing side of things, this can open your mind quite a lot. Watch those infomercials at night sometime. Don’t you think those people have studied us? The placement of these commercials, and any commercial for that matter, isn’t done haphazardly. Thus, my question recently was, “Is the keto diet a marketing scam?” It may be a well-placed strategy to sell more avocados and walnuts. I may be fooled, but I have done some homework. Let us not forget that we are also individuals who must do our own research about what is good for us because we are all unique. There are no two people who are exactly alike on a physiological and genetic level, and on top of that, we change. As we get older, we may not be able to tolerate the same things we once tolerated. So, for now, I laugh at the fact that I thought a fat-free diet was the best way to eat in the mid-90s. I may choke on these words in a year, but I don’t think the ketogenic way of eating is a bad thing since I am not loading my plate with processed foods and chemicals, but whole foods with quality calories.
Lastly, I have a surprise for you! Please look for my newest recipe for “Keto French Fries” later this week! I think you’ll love it. We sure do.
Ramos, A. (2016). The complete ketogenic diet for beginners: Your essential guide to living the keto lifestyle. Berkeley, CA: Rockbridge Press.
The other night I had 16 oz. of organic ground sausage and 16 oz. of organic ground beef in my refrigerator. I also had plenty of fresh vegetables so, I thought… soup time! Growing up, my dad would always throw together some ingredients with ground beef (think rice, vegetables, and tomatoes) and sometimes make his delicious grilled cheese sandwiches as a side (my friend Teresa can vouch for how good these were growing up) and we would have “vegetable soup night.” Even though mom cooked most of the time, my dad could make some mean grilled cheese sandwiches and would cook for us when mom was at work on a 12-hour shift.
Also, I know this is completely off topic, but I must share. My mom was super-human back then. I don’t know how she did everything. Literally, this woman would work long shifts, manage to attend our school events, keep our clothes immaculately ironed, and clean the house every Saturday like clock-work. In fact, the first time I read the book, “The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home” by Arlie Hochschild for a Sociology class, I immediately thought of my mom. She did so much and sacrificed a lot for us. So, mom, I love you. You are appreciated even to this day and I know you pulled the second shift, time and time again. I was so unaware before I took those classes.
Okay, back to the wonderful soup recipe we ate to warm us up on a cold night. The recipe I am going to share with you is very delicious. My daughter and I even went back for seconds, so it definitely is a good one. The recipe is below and is approved for a keto diet, at least for mine it is!
Ingredients for Soup:
1 medium sweet onion
½ – 1 Orange Bell Pepper (based on your love of bell pepper)
5 chopped carrots (see image for size)
3 celery sticks (pull some of the “strings” off before cutting)
3 cups of bone broth (I used my homemade bone broth.)
2 cups of water
2 full (packed) cups of spinach
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
16 oz. ground sausage (organic)
8 oz. ground beef (organic)
1 cup of almond milk (unsweetened version)
1 cup of cheddar cheese
Cheese crackers ingredients:
Shredded Cheddar Jack Cheese
Non-Stick Cooking Spray
In a large pot, add 3 TBSP of olive oil and chopped onions and bell pepper. Soften these and lightly brown… Then, add the sausage and beef and cook until well done. After done, drain the grease. Then, add the bone broth (I prefer my bone broth), water, chopped carrots, heavy whipping cream, and almond milk. Simmer until carrots are almost tender. Add spinach and cheddar cheese while carrots finish cooking.
While this is simmering in the last stages, make some cheese chips as a side by putting shredded cheddar cheese on a non-stick sprayed pan in a cracker form. (I like mine in circles.) Bake at 350⁰ until the edges are brown and the cracker looks lightly brown in the center. Serve on the side.
Lately, I have really been happy with my Keto/Low Carb diet. It seems that all the hype I have heard for years is true. It is much harder to maintain a steady weight in your 40s. I exercise and eat healthy 90% of the time, which has saved me. However, I feel that I need to change my diet to further maintain. I don’t think the same food selections and amounts eaten in our 20s or 30s can be eaten in our 40s. It just isn’t going to work. Our hormones are different. Our metabolism is different. We are different. My solution is going keto/low carb. Of course, your solution may be something entirely different. I will share with you my journey with this plan on this blog and future blogs. Of course, my exercise routine will still include cardio and weights so that won’t change too much.
Since my family has to eat what I cook, they too have been eating some keto-friendly foods. They absolutely loved my meatballs and gravy with biscuits recipe. We had a side of spinach. Unfortunately, I can’t use the same recipe that I shared with you from before for biscuits because those aren’t keto biscuits. Remember Granny’s cathead biscuits? Those will be saved for another day I guess. I found a wonderful recipe online and altered it to make it more delicious. I may share that with you another day. My created recipe for gravy is below. The meatballs were simple. I put 16 oz. of sausage, 8 oz. of ground beef, and 1 egg.
Mel’s Keto-Friendly Gravy Recipe
1 large egg
1/2 cup of almond flour
1/3 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chicken bone broth
Pepper to taste
First, make sure to fry your meatballs in a deep frying pan. I like to add some of my homemade bone broth to the pan and cover the meatballs while cooking to ensure they cook thoroughly. My homemade bone broth recipe is easy and healthy. I shared it in another post. After cooking, you will make the gravy recipe in the leftover drippings from the meatballs. Mix coconut milk and almond flour together in a bowl and add some water if needed to mix well. To the pan, you will add the chicken bone broth from an earlier recipe, the coconut milk flour mix, sour cream, and heavy whipping cream until mixed well. Then, once mixed, whip in 1 large egg. Add meatballs back to pan until covered. Add pepper to taste.
Keto foods are delicious if you love butter, heavy whipping cream, and coconut. Since I love all of these items, I really enjoy eating keto-friendly, low-carb recipes. Most recently, I created a delightful chocolate pecan bite that isn’t too sweet, but can be sweetened to your desire with a little extra sweetener. I use monk fruit sweetener but you could use Stevia if you prefer. These little gems aren’t difficult to make and can really jazz up your dessert options without causing too much stress on your time schedule. I made a small batch and we ate after a Chicken Cauliflower casserole. (I will share this recipe later. In fact, due to adding so many keto-friendly foods, I have decided to create a category on the website to ensure those who are interested in these recipes can find them all at the click of a few selections.)
2 heaping tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour
1/3 cup Coconut Flakes (Organic and unsweetened)
2 Tbsp. Salted Butter
1 heaping tablespoon Hershey’s Cocoa
1/2 cup Creamy Natural Peanut Butter (nothing added but peanuts and salt)
3 oz. Cream Cheese
9 Pecan halves (for the top)
Monk Fruit Sweetener (with Erythritol) 2 Tbsp. (You can add more if you want a sweeter version.)
This is the easiest recipe ever! You will add melted butter and cream cheese together. Cream. Then, add all other ingredients except for the pecan halves. Mix well. Make into round balls. Then, top with pecan halves and push down to desired thickness. Put in refrigerator until ready to eat. Enjoy! This recipe should make 9 bites.
Items you could purchase to make yours are listed below.