Category Archives: Low Carb

Some Basic Tips

Hello, Friends and Family! After many happenings and much time, I am here, but at first by request for baking tips.

It’s a good place to start, and just after Thanksgiving in the U.S., and before Christmas

Let’s start with a few basics.

Sift flours and powdered sugar. You don’t need a sifter; you can use a fine-mesh sieve: WP_20181113_004
MEASURE: If you are not used to cooking, measure your ingredients, but cooking and baking isn’t rocket science. Feel free to play around. In fact, do so more or less with seasonings, herbs, spices, nuts, etc., but don’t guess with flours and leavening. It’s better to add slightly less leavening and flour than even slightly too much.

Contrary to some recipe directions, do not add your leavenings [baking powder, baking soda, salt,] and seasonings to the flour before sifting; too much gets lost in that which is not used.

Always mix your butter/margarine/shortening, then add sugar or sweetener, and mix well in between. If eggs are in the recipe, add them afterward and mix well, add flavorings and scrape the bowl often. DO NOT dump everything into a bowl and expect a nicely textured cake or cookies.

Alternate adding the sifted flour with any added liquid, and mix well in between each addition.

Rest your batter before adding extra flour and before putting into pans or trying to make drop cookies; the batter will set and become stiffer after it sits. You don’t want it to become too stiff.

Chill pie crusts that call for it and rolled cookie dough well; overnight is the best. Wrapped well, they will last for days in your refrigerator or months in your freezer.

Roll out your doughs on flour, parchment paper or waxed paper . Roll small amounts of cookie dough at a time if using flour and add more ‘fresh’ dough to the scraps each time to keep your cookies from becoming hard when baked.

Dip your cookie cutters in flour between cuts.

Spray cookie stamps with cooking spray or dip them in vegetable oil and blot to keep them from sticking to the dough.WP_20181123_002

Preheat your oven, and put baked goods onto the upper-middle rack. If your baked goods tend to brown on the top too soon, then use a lower rack. If they tend to brown too soon on the bottom, preheat your oven on BROIL. Make sure that the broiler is turned off and the oven on and set to the correct baking temperature, (generally 350F), before you add your cookies and cakes.

Test for doneness by gently touching the top of cookies; they should be gently firm. Lift a cookie to check the bottom for doneness; they should be only lightly browned.
Also touch the cake tops; your finger should leave no imprint. Use a toothpick or thin knife to test the middle of cakes; they should come out clean with no batter stuck to them

Prepare pans: Baking pans for cakes and quick breads can be prepared by greasing and flouring, but that tends to make them crumby on the outside. Aerosol baking sprays work well; liquid, brush-on varieties are best, but expensive. Regular greasing/buttering/sprays can be made more efficient by using strips of baking parchment paper.
Cookie sheets can be used multiple times in a row by using parchment paper alone, (clean the pans well before putting them away). Cool the metal sheets between batches by temporarily removing the parchment paper and running the pans under cool water, (use pot holders).

INGREDIENTS:
DAIRY: Whole milk is best for baking, but 2% is useable. Skim milk simply does not work as well. Almond and other nut milks, Soy and Rice milks are useable.

You can make your own condensed version by simmering the milks until it is reduced, but canned coconut milk is the easiest to use.

Milk substitutions:

Most recipes calling for buttermilk come out just wonderfully by using any of the milks above with 2 teaspoonsful of white or apple cider vinegar or my preference, lemon juice. I use real lemons whenever possible, but keep a bottle of reconstituted lemon juice in my refrigerator for this purpose alone. (I will not substitute the real buttermilk called for in my husband’s grandmother’s Carrot Cake recipe, however!)

You can make a sour cream substitution by making it even better: Crème Fraiche. Use heavy cream, add lemon juice and let it sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours, (in not too hot of a room). Refrigerate. It’s wonderful. A quicker version is a mix of cream cheese, (vegan or cow) and milk, (cow or nut/soy/rice milks).

Vegan milks will not thicken as well, as cow milk, (but can be used), especially with a little thickenings, such as milk mixed with a little corn starch. There are Vegan Sour creams and cream cheese on the market, but most are soy-based.

Goat milk is strong; I do not recommend using it for baking.

Whipping cream of coconut with a little coconut or other vegan milk is a good substitute for condensed milk. Well-chilled, full-fat coconut canned milk can be whipped like cream.

WHIP-IT and other brands of whipped-cream stabilizer made of dextrose and modified corn starch is quite helpful in both coconut and cow whipped cream.

SALT is also a leavening; leaving it out of baked-good recipes is a mistake. Baking soda is used alone with acidic batters, like those with butter milk/sour milk. Baking Powder is a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar; they are not interchangeable. Cream of tartar was often found on pantry shelves when more home-cooking was done. Its most common use is in volumizing whipped egg whites.

Palm and other sugars can be substituted for white sugar. Brown sugar sold in America is usually sugar which has had the molasses removed by refining, and has had molasses returned in varying degree, (light or dark). I know; it makes no sense. But what this means is that in a recipe, you can substitute white sugar with a little molasses beaten into the mix, but mix extra well, as the texture of the sugar is not as fine.

White and dark corn syrup can be used interchangeably. If you really want dark with a richer flavor, you can add a little molasses.

There are dark syrups available, (Sorghum was big in Kentucky for generations), but I am skeptical about Brown rice syrup and Blue Agave. Both can, contrary to earlier reports, raise blood glucose levels and agave may cause miscarriages.

Flours:
All-purpose flour will be familiar to those of you who need to read this blog. Choose unbleached for nearly all of your basic needs. “White wheat” is a healthier alternative, but your baked goods will not rise as high and will not be as delicate.

Bread flour has higher protein and more gluten and makes for a chew consistency. Do not use for cakes and pastry.

Whole wheat flour takes extra effort and is harder to work with.

Alternative flours: I am experimenting now that I have family members who are gluten-sensitive. You cannot simply substitute other flours for the all-purpose flour most recipes call for and expect great results. It takes time and tweaking. Indeed, making bread and many doughs will not work at all with some flours because it is gluten that makes dough elastic. Plus, many flours, like besan, (chickpea flour), may be healthier, but they have an off-taste. You can disguise some of these with strong enough flavors. (I make a dense chocolate cake which basically covers the bean-taste.)

just developed a pie crust made of oat and almond flour. It is tasty, but it is not flaky, and it cannot be rolled-out, but needs to be pressed into the pie plate before filling. I’ll post that in the next post, soon.

I want to post this as soon as possible, although I have not touched on many points.

Please feel free if you have any ideas, questions or have any points you’d like to see addressed.

Thank you for being with me!

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Chicken[Tofurkey,Quorn] Paprika(GF, DF)

Yes, it’s me. I have not forgotten you. I had my promised series on antipasti ready and my computer crashed taking all of the recipes with it…and that was just the beginning!
I have pix of most of what I created and will try to sort out what was what, but in the meantime, here is a recipe I have been asked for by a few people.

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The best way to make this is with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Done right, they will not be dry. You can use boneless, skinless thighs, if you really prefer dark meat. There is no reason why one could not use thick slices of Tofurkey, (any brand of like product), or Quorn roasts to make a vegan or vegetarian version. I will add directions for alternatives below. I also, as usual, have short-cuts to make the recipe simpler.
The recipe will serve two big eaters. Simply multiply the ingredients to serve more.

Chicken Paprika
2+1 Tbsp Butter or margarine
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped,(or 1 Tbsp dried, minced garlic)
1 ½ Tbsp paprika,(regular or half can be smoked)
1 ½ lbs of boneless chicken breasts or thighs
Salt
1 ½ cups strong chicken broth…(if you are using canned or from a carton, cook over high heat to reduce and strengthen. If you want to use bullion, make it double-strength)
1 cup crème fraiche, or sour cream
1 Tbsp plain flour , 1 ½ tsp corn starch or rice flour

Melt the 2 Tbsp butter or margarine. Quickly brown the chicken on both sides, (it will raw in the middle). Remove from the pan. Lower the heat, add the extra butter, onion, garlic , paprika and salt to the pan and cook just until the onion is wilted. Add the broth and the chicken, and cook on low heat just until the chicken is cooked in the middle. Again, remove the chicken and keep it warm. Mix the flour into the crème fraiche or sour cream and mix until smooth. Add slowly to the broth, (a whisk is helpful here). Raise the temperature and stir until the mixture is thickened. Lower the heat to warm. Add the chicken, turning once, until the chicken is rewarmed throughout and has absorbed some of the sauce. Serve over rice, couscous, boiled or mashed potatoes. Be generous with the sauce.

Tofurkey or Quorn Paprika
2+1 Tbsp margarine
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped,(or 1 Tbsp dried, minced garlic)
1 ½ Tbsp paprika,(regular or half can be smoked)
1 ½ lbs of thickly sliced Tofurkey or Quorn roast
Salt
1 ½ cups strong vegetable broth…(if you are using canned or from a carton, cook over high heat to reduce and strengthen. If you want to use bullion, make it double-strength)
1 cup vegan sour cream or silken tofu
1 Tbsp plain flour , 1 ½ tsp corn starch or rice flour

Melt the 2 Tbsp margarine. Quickly brown the meat substitute on both sides. Remove from the pan. Lower the heat, add the extra margarine, the onion, garlic, paprika and salt to the pan and cook just until the onion is wilted. Add the vegetable broth and heat to boiling. Mix the vegan sour cream or silken tofu with the flour until smooth and add slowly to the broth, (a whisk is helpful here). Raise the temperature and stir until the mixture is thickened. Lower the heat to warm. Add the Tofurkey or Quorn turning once, until it is rewarmed throughout and has absorbed some of the sauce. Serve over rice, couscous, boiled or mashed potatoes. Be generous with the sauce.

Appetizer Finale/Cream cheese and Vegan Alternatives/Liver and Mock Liver Pâté

Hello all! Despite the order in the name of this blog, family comes first, hence the long hiatus since my last post.
I nearly simply ended my series on appetizers, but since the last was ready and the most simple, I decided to go with it.

I personally prefer to use Neufchatel, which is “light” cream cheese, but you can use any cream cheese or ‘vegan cream cheese’ made of tofu, “Go Veggie” and “Follow You Heart” which is a mix containing soy, “Daiya” brand non-dairy, non-soy alternative, (to name a few). Any of these can be easily used for any of these recipes, or in any ideas of your own to make vegan or gluten-free appetizers.

Commercial cream cheese spreads come in very many flavors. You can find sweet versions mixed with strawberry, honey, honey and nut, pineapple and even chocolate. Savory versions include chive, dill, garden vegetable and salmon, which is more versatile than you might imagine.

Along with prepared cream cheese, dips, such as spinach and bacon-and-horseradish, can be used sparingly in appetizers. These have a looser consistency and must be contained within an appetizer or spread thinly.
Of course, you can mix any flavors of your own preference into a plain base, or use the pre-made ones on their own. However, these are so simple, a little imagination added along with a few unusual flavor combinations will make a big hit with family and guests.

Cream cheese and vegan cream cheese based appetizers are so easy and versatile!

Cream cheese and vegan cream cheese based appetizers are so easy and versatile!

Pictured above are:
Salmon Cream cheese on toast round with sliced olive, dried cranberry and a pear wedge
[Dip white-fleshed fruit, such as pear and apple, in lemon or other citrus-based soda, or pineapple juice to slow discoloration]
Salmon cream cheese in mission figs topped with smoked almond, pear piece and dried cranberry
Chive cream cheese on crackers, topped with sliced, jarred sweet pepper and nut (A candied walnut is shown, but a pecan, hazelnut or almond, whether plain , spiced or candied would work)
Chive cream cheese in celery topped with black olive, cranberry, nuts
Pepperoni roll with chive cream cheese or spinach dip
Baby spinach leaves with spinach dip, with or without nuts,(plain almonds, walnuts or pecans)

A recipe that was requested but that I hesitated to add was for my Liver Pâté. I will also add my vegan Mock Liver Pâté recipe. These can be a nice addition to any appetizer plate, be they spread on crackers, (topped with sour cream, cheeses or vegan alternatives, put into fresh spinach or romaine leaves slices of apple or stuffed into mission figs! Try it!)

Liver Pâté/Mock Liver Pâté
8 oz chicken liver, sautéed until just done OR 10 oz walnuts simmered until tender, either cooked with ¼ cup sliced onion
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp turmeric (optional)
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp garlic granules or powder, (NOT garlic salt)
Adjust all flavorings to taste. Chill before use.

One final word on appetizers: remember to keep the few hot appetizers I mentioned in the series as warm as possible, on a hotplate or in an electric skillet if possible. Keep all cold appetizers as cool as possible. Place some out at a time while leaving other refrigerated, or place them on plates or trays on larger trays of ice.

I do so hope this series has whetted your appetite for appetizers and that you will serve them with confidence, whether they be some of the recipes or suggestions that I offered, or some that you were inspired to make on your own.

Do you have any questions?

Appetizers VII-Potatoes and Rice/Leftovers

Easy potato-based appetizers

Easy potato-based appetizers

Appetizers from left-overs? It’s possible. What you need to start are mashed potatoes.
(If you don’t know how to make your own, please see You Can Do It, December 10, 2012 Archive)

Many are vegetarian, many can be made as vegan. All can be made gluten-free.

Sautée sweet peppers, (multicolored are nice but not necessary), and a little onion, green onion, leeks or shallots. Add paprika and parsley. If you have a favorite herb, you can use it sparingly. Add a little flour,(may use rice flour), and an egg, to help make them firm enough to be picked-up. But the egg is optional if you want to ‘go vegan’. A little more flour and a little longer cooking time will be necessary. Or you can place them on a cracker, a piece of fresh endive, romaine or spinach.

To make them hold their shape, form the potatoes into small, flat patties and fry them slowly on medium-low heat until they are lightly browned on each side and are very firm.

Top them with anything you’d  like.

Examples are :
Bacon or Tofurkey
Grape or cherry tomatoes
Herbed cream cheese, sour cream  or vegan sour cream; (may add nuts)
More sautéed or pickled peppers
Any left-over vegetable dish,(above has Spinach Bake

These are hearty, more party-food fare,but  they will keep your guests satisfied if the night is long or the meal delayed.

Spinach Bake

2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and well-drained  or
equivalent in fresh spinach which has been blanched,(Submerged in boiling water until limp)
4-6 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Optional:
2Tbsp. sautéed onions
1 Tbsp Parsley

Mix well. Place in buttered casserole dish.

OPTIONAL TOPPING: [Omit if going Gulten-free or to avoid carbohydrates]
4 oz melted butter
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs(I prefer half-Italian and half-plain mixed)
or
plain breadcrumbs with
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp. basil
1tsp marjoram
1 tsp. oregano (optional)

Mix butter and crumbs. Spread over the top of the spinach mix and bake at 375F  just until  set.(A knife inserted into the middle will come out clean)

I developed this recipe one day at my bakery/restaurant when we ran low on vegetable dishes during a Sunday dinner carry-out rush.I have had many requests for it.It was popular with my clients when I was a personal chef and is big with my family.  Served hot, it makes a great side dish, but cold and cubed, it makes a great appetizer.

Sampling of Spinach Bake and  Mixed Rice appetizers

Sampling of Spinach Bake and Mixed Rice appetizers

On the plate above, we have not only,chilled, cubed Spinach Bake topped with lightly herbed  mashed potatoes, but it is also stuffed into halved grape tomatoes.

Some of the gape tomatoes are filled with the mashed potato mixture recipe above, of course, without the eggs.

One of the white mixtures pictured is a quick chicken salad made with left over chicken breast,(baked, rotisserie or roasted).A little grated onion and celery,or just onion powder and celery salt with paprika. Mix into mayonnaise or veganaise and add to shredded chicken; it works beautifully .Add pecan pieces, hazelnuts, pistachios or walnuts and you have a truly special filling for tomatoes, olives or to be rolled into romaine leaves.

 

The other white mixture is cooked rice mixed with paprika, turmeric and celery salt. You can add parsley and, again, nuts,to add a spark. (Roasted or wasabi almonds add a bigger spark.) Mix with a slight amount of cream, coconut or almond milk enough to make it stick together somewhat.

You should always have a can or jar of black olives in your cabinet, and possibly some pre-made filo cups,(more with them next time), but they aren’t necessary. Tomatoes may not be in season or just not in your refrigerator . A slice of cucumber will work, as will an inch-and-a- half piece of celery or leaves of any lettuce or bok choy. And you can always use  bread or toast squares/triangles using any type: white, wheat, pumpernickel, rye, oat…whatever you have,
plus any type of cracker. You can even use chips, if they are big enough and curved enough to hold filling and be picked up.

Just be certain that your left-overs are fresh and your offerings kept cold.

Any questions? Just a few more posts to go in the series of appetizers.

I hope you have found some among them that you can use.

 

 

 

Appetizers V/Stuffed Cold Cuts, Tofurkey/Marinated Mozzarella, Tofu

These heartier, filling "appetizers" should be used to fill a spot when a meal is missed.

These heartier, filling “appetizers” should be used to fill a spot when a meal is missed.

In Appetizers IV, I gave a few heartier version of what is a bit more than an actual “appetizer” should be, and here are a few more! These should be used more as a latter offering to take the place of a small meal, rather than as a pre-meal appetite-whetter.

Using Hummus as I spoke about in my last post, I added to it sautéed peppers in some cases, peppers and onions in others and sautéed mixed vegetables in others.

Simply take over-lapping layers of finely sliced deli turkey or chicken,( oven-roasted, mesquite or Cajun are best), roast beef,(add a little prepared horseradish sauce to the mix), or spiced ham. Add a dollop of prepared hummus and fold the ends of the meats over the top, close with a toothpick. If you can get Tofurkey, (soy-based meat substitute), or Seitan,(a wheat-based one), large enough and thin enough, it should work as well.
I used the same principle here with cooked Spinach leaves, You could substitute romaine or endive, instead.

I first blanched the Peapods, (plunge then into boiling water until just wilted),or you could steam them until tender. Slit the top without going through to the bottom and fill with humus prepared as you wish.

The Cheese Balls are fresh Mozzarella that I purchased at my local grocery store. I drained them,(they come in small tubs of brine), and marinated them in a mix of olive oil with a dash of balsamic vinegar,(you could use any type, but I suggest if not balsamic, then apple cider vinegar.
(Any nut oil would work well, too, instead of olive.) To the mix I added: garlic, salt, basil, marjoram, parsley, rosemary and black pepper. You could use “Italian Seasoning”, which is basically the same mix, and/or add oregano.(or use any combination of the above.) let them sit is a tightly –sealed container for at least days in your refrigerator. Turn the container twice a day. These will last for weeks in your refrigerator, so they are easy to make ahead. You can add black olives to the container as well. Drain to serve. (You can use the marinade to mix with Neufchatel or cream cheese to fill the olives, or use for other, upcoming appetizer recipes.

Use cubes of firm Tofu for a vegan-version.

I do hope his series is giving you ideas and courage to serve your guests and families.

 

Appetizers IV-Stuffed Mini-Peppers/Hummus/Fresh Fruit

Colorful Stuffed Mini-peppers are as delicious as they are cute

Colorful Stuffed Mini-peppers are as delicious as they are cute

 
Colorful Stuffed Mini-peppers are as delicious as they are cute
Mini-peppers are now readily available in most supermarkets in the U.S. I find them in bags of red, yellow and orange mixed. They have a very sweet and gentle flavor and are beautiful in salads or sautéed in butter or oil and added to any vegetable, pasta, grain or rice dish. Roasted gently in the oven, they can be slit and seeded, then stuffed and made into lovely, somewhat heartier, appetizers. Fresh fruit served with these is a bit of a respite from the heaviness of them.
[TIP: To keep non-citrus fruit fresh,dip them in citrus-fruit juice,(lemon or lime are very tart; I like to use pineapple or grapefruit juice), or any citrus-based soda, such as lemon-line (Sprite) or Mountain Dew.]

The peppers above are just a tiny example of what one can do with the darling vegetables.
Above I have some meat-filled with taco-ground beef and cheddar cheese. Others are filled with cream cheese with parsley chives, onion powder and topped with crumbled bacon.
One has spiced pork, (cooked pork ground with a hint of cloves and nutmeg, or you can do herbed pork with fennel, parsley and chives). You can use finely chopped beef mixed with prepared horseradish; top with a cherry tomato half.

Sauté tiny shrimp with leeks, (shallots or chives), thinly sliced celery and cooked spinach and use the mix to stuff some.

The others are stuffed with Roasted Chickpeas [Garbanzo beans], or hummus.
You may use canned, cooked chickpeas, (or to cook your own, see my August 24, 2012 post: You Know Beans.)

Place cooked beans on a baking sheet and roast in a 375F oven for approximately 10 minutes, stir to turn and cook for about 8 more. Crush these and mix with crushed pistachios, almonds, preferably smoked…or my new obsession, wasabi almonds. Fill the roasted peppers.

If you don’t know hummus, it is a food made from ground chickpeas and usually tahini, which is a roasted sesame-seed paste. You may use any of the prepared bands, as hummus has become quite common as a dip in the U.S., and much of the rest of the Western parts or the world, (the East always knew its glory.) There are many brands,(beware, one does not mix as well with other foods as it contains a great deal of chili powder in its ‘regular’ formula).Many types are to be found with roasted garlic, tomatoes, etc. You can use these, but I make my own with a slight change; I use sesame seeds instead of tahini. Feel free to try this using canned chickpeas.

My Hummus [Vegan, gluten-free]
½ pound of chickpeas cooked in a slow-cooker with
1 Tbsp. of Olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp. finely diced onion
½ tsp white pepper
3X water to cover the chickpeas
When the chickpeas are soft, reserve some water and drain the rest. I run them through a food processor, then add:
2 Tbsp olive oil,
salt to taste
2 tsp. crushed garlic
½-2/3 cup white sesame seeds
I process them again until completely smooth, and add more of the reserved cooking water if too dry.
For the peppers in the photo, I added chopped, sautéed vegetable mixed, as described in “Appetizers II”.

I do hope that you try any of the above combinations, or any of your own.

 

Appetizers III Savory Fruit/ Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Vegan-optional

“Savory” and “Fruit” may not come to mind as being compatible, but when it comes to appetizers,the combination is perfect. Sweet and spicy or tart, plus pairing of textures, give a surprise spark to the taste buds and leave  guests wanting to experience more.

Stuffed dates, figs  and grilled pineapple make wonderfully surprising  appetizers

Stuffed dates, figs and grilled pineapple make wonderfully surprising appetizers

The stuffed dates, figs, apricots and grilled fruits above are quite easy and quite eye-catching.

To start, the easiest:

Grilled fruit:
Heat butter in a frying pan until slightly brown. Add slices of firm fruit, such as pineapple, peach, pear, plum,  apple, apricot.

On high heat, brown quickly on each side.You may sprinkle with spices, such as nutmeg or cloves, or you can go  hot, with a little white pepper, ginger, Indian  hot pepper, (be careful!) or paprika. Sugar is unnecessary as the caramelization of the fruit sugar in the pan-frying makes them particularly sweet.

Skewer with a toothpick.

Stuffed Dried Mission figs: slit, filled with hazelnut-chocolate spread,(Nutella), a smoked or wasabi almond, glazed walnut or any of the suggestions below.

 Stuffed Dates and Apricots
With a short,sharp knife, slit the fruit and open the cavity gently with a dull knife, (or a clean finger!), and insert any of the following:

sweet coconut, with or without nuts, or dried fruit bits,(mango, pineapple, crasins, cherries,(dried or Maraschino),

or with sweet cheese [ricotta, mascarpone or Neufchatel mixed with honey, sugar, stevia or other sweetener, plain or with the options of  nuts and/or spices, such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, etc. Silken tofu or “vegan cream cheese” can be used as well.]

Top these with a piece of dried fruit or  nuts.

These will also have to be skewered or placed in candy paper cups, or , easier, mini cupcake papers.

 

Note: Pre-made sweet coconut can be used or prepared with stevia or other sweetener as I suggested in the NuNaturals promo post of September 11, 2014.  Although I developed those recipes with  the product  in mind, ANY stevia product or sweetener of choice can be used. (I found that wasabi almonds are a fantastic mix with sweet coconut…I can’t get enough of the combination!)

Please see all of the September 11 post for more (sugar free)  sweet appetizer ideas.
Again, please feel free to use
  ANY sweetener of your choice.

It’s crunch-time for the holidays.I will post again in a day or two to get in as many appetizers as I can before most of the holiday season.