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Homemade Nutella with Almonds

Homemade Nutella with almonds {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}

Creamy chocolate-y nutty goodness!  Nutella is relatively new to the United States.  I first tried it while spending a semester in England  back in the early 90’s.  I was hooked!  It was quite a while before I saw it on store shelves here in the US.

Traditionally, nutella is made with hazel nuts.  Which I tried the first time around.  It was delicious.  My children wanted to be able to share with with their grandma who, unfortunately is allergic to hazel nuts.  So I played around with a few variations before I settled on this one – with almonds!  My kids actually like it better.  Almonds are easier to find around here and not as pricey as hazel nuts.


Homemade Almond Nutella
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  1. 1 cup almonds
  2. 1 ½ TBSP coconut oil, melted
  3. ½ cup coconut milk
  4. ¼ cup honey
  5. 4 TBSP cocoa powder
  6. Pinch salt
  7. ¼ tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
  8. ½ TBSP vanilla extract
  1. Add the almonds to a food processor and grind until smooth. This will take a while – 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure they are as smooth as you want them before adding anything else, especially the coconut milk, as they will not grind much more after.
  2. Add the coconut oil and grind some more.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it is well combined.
  1. About the espresso powder – as a matter of habit I almost always add a little instant espresso (or coffee) to anything with chocolate. Just makes it taste better in my opinion, but you can leave it out.
The Greening of Westford http://thegreeningofwestford.com/
With the substitution of honey for regular sugar, this variation is practically healthy.  Now that doesn’t give you the freedom to eat the whole jar, but feel better about it.  

We like this homemade nutella on toast, fruit, or as a quick substitute for chocolate in s’mores.

Have you tried nutella?  What do you like to eat it with?


Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub – EASY!

Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub - EASY!

As the weather gets colder, my hands start to feel like alligator skin.  Well, what I would imagine alligator skin to feel like since I am totally freaked out by any sort of reptile and could never touch one!  But I digress, back to my hands – rough, dry skin that catches on everything.  This hand scrub does the trick!  And it’s so easy.

A few years ago a friend of mine and I took a girls weekend trip to a spa in Arizona. It was lovely.  The spa had this wonderful scrub in the bathroom.  Our hands felt incredible after using it.  Every time we did I analyzed it, sniffing, rubbing, trying to figure out what was in it.

So here is my closest approximation to that wonderful spa scrub.


Arizona-Inspired Hand Scrub
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  1. 3/4 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  3. 2 TBSP Apricot Kernel Oil (could substitute olive oil or almond oil)
  4. All of the ingredeints below are totally optional
  5. 1 tsp vitamin E
  6. 1 tsp vegetable glycerin
  7. 3 drops each lemon, lavender and rosemary essential oil
  8. 1 TBSP aloe vera gel
  1. Mix all ingredients until combined completely
To Use
  1. Take a bit and rub all over your hands, rinse with warm water only, no soap.
The Greening of Westford http://thegreeningofwestford.com/

As much as I love the benefits you get from using several ingredients, it can be a bit much when you are just starting to make your own beauty products.   Start with a few key ingredients and build from there.  This recipe could be made with the first 3 ingredients only, even the first 2 honestly!  It will be a bit stiffer without a liquid oil (like olive oil), but coconut oil is a great moisturizer on it’s own and the sugar scrubs.

I think next time I’ll try using some real rosemary from my garden! 

As you add more ingredients to your arsenal, add to this recipe.  I’d suggest  Vitamin E  and one (or more) of the essential oils.  (disclosure: affiliate links)  They are easy to purchase and can be used in a variety of products.

By the way, wouldn’t this look so cute in your guest bathroom!

Easy Homemade hand scrub


Put this in a cute glass jar, label it, maybe a ribbon.  Voila!  Holiday gift!

Have any good tips for rough hands?


This post has been shared at Natural Living Monday


Coconut Rice Pudding


Coconut Rice Pudding recipe

Ever since I was a child, I have loved rice pudding!   Maybe it’s an Armenian or Middle Eastern thing.  Not sure, but it’s so yummy and comforting.  Combine that with my love of coconut – Coconut Rice Pudding.  Oh yeah!

I started making it again a few years ago.  Just as good as I remember, although I miss my grandma making it.  The recipe I used was from an old church cookbook – you know it’s good! 

Of course, I had to add my own little flair.  I also adore coconut.  So I combined the two!  Delicious!



Coconut Rice Pudding
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  1. 4 cups milk
  2. ½ cup rice
  3. ½ cup unsweetened coconut
  4. 1/3 cup sugar or honey or other sweetener of choice
  5. 1 egg (optional)
  6. 1/2 tsp coconut flavoring
  7. 1/8 tsp vanilla
  1. Crack the egg into a dish and let sit – brings it up to room temperature
  2. Put rice, coconut, and sugar/honey in a pan and heat on medium heat until boiling, stirring constantly.
  3. Turn heat down to low, simmer for 30 mins or until rice is tender, stirring frequently.
  4. Turn heat off, add vanilla and coconut flavoring
  5. Add a little of the rice pudding to the egg and beat immediately. You want to temper the egg so it doesn’t make scrambled eggs. Add the egg to the rest of the rice pudding and stir for a few mins. to cook the egg.
  1. Personally, I like the custard-y flavor the egg gives the pudding. It's totally optional and, honestly, not part of the traditional recipe I started with.
The Greening of Westford http://thegreeningofwestford.com/

Ever had rice pudding?

 This post has been shared at Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Tasty Tuesday


Fantastic Falafel

Recipe for falafel

As you may be aware, one of my goals for 2013 is to reduce my family’s meat intake.  There are several reasons for this including environmental, health benefits and budget concerns.  One recipe I found a few months ago has become a favorite – Falafel!  Now, my kids aren’t thrilled with it, but they don’t completely hate it, so it’s a start!

NOTE:  You need to plan ahead!  The active cooking isn’t long, but there are a few steps where you have to let things sit for a while.  Read the whole recipe first.


Makes: 8 patties


1 cup dried chickpeas

1 1/2 cups onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, I use 1/4 cup of each – chopped roughly
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
olive oil
Suggested toppings: plain yogurt, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta


  1. Cover the chickpeas with water and let them soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight at room temperature.  Drain the water.  The chickpeas will double in size resulting in 2 cups of soaked chickpeas.
  2. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse until chickpeas are ground a bit.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the oil) to the food processor.
  4. Pulse just until everything is combined.  Not more than 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour.  I have skipped this step when I am in a rush.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350.
  7. Form mixture into 8 patties.  
  8. Place patties into the refrigerator for 10 – 15 minutes.
  9. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Use enough to coat the bottom of the pan.
  10. Brown the patties for 3 minutes on each side then place on a baking sheet.
  11. Cook the patties in the oven for another 8 – 10 minutes.
You can serve these with a salad, on buns, in tortillas, pita bread, whatever you like.  
I love the flavors in this falafel recipe and it makes excellent leftovers!  I’ve also tried making the mixture through step 5 and freezing it.  It works OK.  But next time I’ll make completely make the patties and freeze.

Have you tried falafel?

This post has been shared at:  Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Simply Natural Saturdays Simple Meals Friday, Tasty Traditions


Yummy Nutty Homemade Granola

homemade nutty granola

I am a recent lover of granola!  I am by no means an expert or connoisseur.   But I love this simple recipe.  It doesn’t get super crunchy.  It’s more like cereal, but I like that I can mix it with yogurt or eat it with milk.

Yummy Nutty Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup assorted nuts (I like a mixture of almonds and walnuts)
3/4 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup real maple syrup (could use honey as well)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F .
  2. Melt coconut oil and mix with maple syrup.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients, mixing well to coat.
  4. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
I have also baked this at a lower temperature of 300 F. It doesn’t get as brown and is way more like a cereal. 
I love eating it with my homemade yogurt and a drizzle of honey!
Do You Like Granola?  What’s Your Favorite?

This post is shared at Your Green Resource


Making Yogurt: It’s All About Temperature!

Making yogurt in microwave
I grew up on homemade yogurt from my grandmother.  I love plain yogurt!  I am Armenian and we eat plain yogurt a lot – not just for breakfast or snacks.  In Armenian households, madzoon (maad – zoon), Armenian for yogurt, is a staple!  We put it on dolma (meat and rice stuffed cabbage or grape leaves).  A lot of people find it too sour.  Commercial plain yogurts can be sour.  With homemade yogurt, you can control the sourness. 
After I graduated from college, I wanted to learn to make my own.  I asked my grandmother and the directions were not clear at all, to say the least!  “Put your milk in a pan and bring it just to a boil” – how much milk, what kind, high heat?????  “However much you want to make.”  And “You know, just so it won’t burn“ were the answers.  “Then let it cool until you can just put your pinky finger into it without it burning”  Really!?  That is the explanation.  I kid you not.  And I have heard this method described by many others too.  Of course, this means burning your finger a couple of times before you get it right!
Needless to say, my yogurt was hit or miss back then.  At one point, I was able to calibrate my pinky and could make yogurt with the best of them! Yum!
I wanted to get back into making yogurt so I tried again about a year ago.  I could not calibrate my pinky to save my life!  I finally gave in and did some research to figure out exactly what temperature doesn’t burn your pinky  – turns out it’s about 115 – 118 Fahrenheit.   But still, no yogurt for me! 
A friend told me about this method and it is working beautifully!  It’s all about temperature!
ingredients for homemade yogurt


½ gallon of milk – I have only tried with pasteurized whole milk
4 TBSP plain yogurt with active and live cultures – you can buy this, or use your homemade yogurt
2  quart-size mason jars
Heat The Milk
1.  Take your starter yogurt out of the refrigerator and sit it on your counter to warm up.
Heating milk to make yogurt
2.  Pour 1 quart of milk into each mason jar (no lids) and place in microwave.
heating  milk to make yogurt
3.  Heat the milk until the temperature of the reaches 180.  Mine took about 15 minutes, but I started with 10 minutes, checked the temp. then put it in for more time.  The temperature needs to reach at least 180 to kill any other bacteria.  Higher is OK as long as the milk doesn’t burn.
Cool The Milk
cooling milk to proper temperature to make yogurt
4. Take the jars out and let them cool to 118 degrees.  I used an ice water bath and it took about 10 minutes.   TEMPERATURE IS KEY AT THIS POINT.  If you wait too long, the milk is too cold for the cultures to culture.  Too hot and they die.  There are loads of websites out there saying that this perfect temperature is anywhere from 100 – 118.  And that different temperatures affect the resulting yogurt’s taste or texture.  Could be.  But grandma used her finger and this feels closer to 118 to me so that’s what I do.
5.  While the milk is cooling, I warm up my oven.  This is where the jars will rest to culture into yogurt.  I turn my oven on the lowest setting (200) to heat it up a bit, then shut it off, and leave the light on.  
Add Active and Live Cultures
6.   Add a bit of the milk (about ¼ cup) to your yogurt starter to thin it out a bit and to warm it up.  You don’t want to shock it when you add it to the milk.
7.  Add half of the yogurt starter to each mason jar and stir gently.
Prep for Culturing
8.   Put the lids on and wrap the jars in a towel.  I used a hand towel, folded and wrapped around the mason jars, secured with rubber bands (thanks to my friend for this idea).
Keep milk warm to culture
9. Place the jars in the warm place you prepped in step 5.   The jars are then wrapped in a huge beach towel.  TEMPERATURE IS KEY HERE TOO! You want to keep the milk at about this temperature throughout the culturing process.  Some sites also recommend using a heating pad, pot of hot water or turning on the oven when needed to warm up.
Let The yogurt Making Begin!
10.  Let the jars sit for about 5 – 7 hours.  The longer you let it sit, the more sour the flavor.  Do not disturb the jars – bacteria like it calm!
11.  Hopefully – YOGURT.  If not, don’t give up.  Try again. 
12. Chill the yogurt completely before eating to improve the texture.
I like this method because it is simple!  Right, simple!  There are 12 long steps.  They really aren’t difficult; it’s that there are a lot of things that could go wrong so I tried to cover those common mistakes.
There is much less transferring of the milk and resulting yogurt than other methods and thus less chance of introducing “bad” bacteria.  I did not sterilize everything I used.  Probably should have, but again, with the jars going straight into the microwave, those get sterilized along with the milk.  The only other item I used was a spoon.

I love making my own yogurt for several reasons:

1) I feel connected to my grandmother and my Armenian heritage
2) It tastes soooo much better than store bought
3) I save money!  I pay roughly $3-4 for a gallon of milk which makes 4 quarts of yogurt.  I would pay $4 for a SINGLE quart of decent plain yogurt at the grocery store.

Next I want to try making yogurt in the slow cooker!


How To Cook Dry Beans

how to cook dry beans
“Why in the world would she want to cook her own beans?  Canned are cheap as “beans” 😉 to begin with!”

Well, yes, beans are a fairly inexpensive protein in the can, but here are many reasons why I cook my own.

  1.  Avoid the BPA.   Most cans contain BPA in the lining.  Until a suitable alternative is available, cooking your own reduces this exposure.
  2. Save Money.  Dry beans are anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3 the price of canned beans.  I did a comparison in my area and this is what I found – You can buy a pound of dry Goya black beans at Market Basket for $1.49 which cooks up to at least 6 cups of beans.  This is the equivalent of 3 cans which will cost you about $2.40.  You have saved $0.91.  Now you could take that savings and run.  Or use the savings to buy organic dry beans.  Dry organic black beans in bulk at Hannaford are $2.99 per lb  For some reason I couldn’t find organic canned beans at Hannaford or Market Basket, so from amazon a can of Eden Organic black beans is $1.66.  Again, a little more than 1/2 the price.
  3. I control the ingredients.  There is usually a lot of salt added to canned beans.
  4. Taste and texture.  I can control how soft the beans are by cooking them more or less.  The taste also seems fresher to me.
  5. Reduce packaging waste.  I have been trying to reduce whatever waste I can.  By buying beans in bulk, in my own container, there is another package eliminated!

I know.  It seems difficult and not worth it.  It really isn’t that tough.  Yes it takes a little more planning on the cooking and using (defrosting) end.  When I need beans for a recipe, I cook up at least a pound of beans, use what I need then freeze the rest.  To defrost them quicker, I place the glass jar in a bowl of cool water.  Again, it is not as fast as popping the lid off a can, but close.

I will let you in on a little secret.  Years ago, before marriage and kids, I lived with my cousin.  We tried a few times to cook dry beans and they never got soft, so we gave up.  Well, years later I discovered that you have to soak AND cook them.  We only ever soaked them!  Ah to be young!  

How To Cook Dried Beans

This applies to beans that need to be soaked and cooked.   This method does not apply to lentils or split peas since they don’t need to be soaked and cook very quickly.

Step 1: Prep   Dry beans often have small stones or clumps of dirt in them.  This is normal, but you need to get those out before you cook them.  Sort through the beans, picking out the undesirables then rinse in cold water.

Step 2: Soak   Most beans need to be soaked before cooking.  The larger the bean, the longer the soaking, the longer the soaking the shorter the cooking time. 

Black eyed peas and Adzuki beans do not require soaking – skip this step.

Overnight method:  Put beans in a bowl (I use the pot I will be cooking them in) add enough cold water to cover the beans completely with a few inches of water.  They will absorb the water as they soak.  Let sit overnight (6 -8 hours).

Quick soak:  Place in a pot with enough water covering the beans.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 mins.  Take pot off the heat, cover and let sit for 2 hours.

Step 3: Cook   Remove any beans that are floating.  Drain and rinse the beans.  Place them in a pot.  Add enough cold water to cover the beans by one inch.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  If cooking kidney beans, boil for 10 mins. before lowering the heat to destroy a toxin in the beans .  Simmer until beans are tender (see table below for approximate cooking times).  When checking for doneness, test a few beans to make sure they have all cooked.  You can add seasoning while cooking, but do not add salt or anything acidic.  Your beans will never cook.

These times are a rough guide.  Depending on the age of your beans and the length of time you soaked them, the times may vary.



Cooking Time

Black Beans


1 hour
Black-eyed peas

1 hour

Cannellini beans

1 ¼ hours

Chick peas/Garbanzo beans


1 – 1 ½ hours

Great Northern Beans


1 hour

Kidney Beans


1 ¼ hours

Peas -split


1 hour

Pinto Beans


1– 1 ½ hours


SAVE the cooking liquid!   Often you will want some cooking liquid when using the beans.  Definitely for chick peas – I always add some cooking liquid when making hummus.  Just add some of the liquid to your storage container.  It will also help the beans from getting dried out.

Beans will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days.

For longer storage (up to 6 months), freeze them.  Baggies, plastic containers, or glass – whatever works for you!  I freeze mine in 2 cup portions (just like the cans) in pint mason jars with some of the cooking liquid.

Easy peasy right!?  Apparently, you can also cook them in a slow cooker.  That will have to be another post since I haven’t tried it yet.

Do you cook your own beans?

Top photo take by CIAT/Flickr used under Creative Commons.


Cheesy Spinach with Quinoa

Cheesy Spinach with quinoa recipe

I was fascinated when I discovered quinoa (keen-wah).  A grain that has protein.  Cool!  It tastes great too. Not a strong flavor so you can put it with almost anything.

I found a recipe for Cheesy Quinoa Pilaf with Spinach.  This was more of a quinoa pilaf with some spinach added.  I was (and am still) trying to add more vegetables to my meals, so I adjusted this recipe to be more of a spinach side dish with some quinoa.  It has now become one of my favorites.  The ingredients are easy and most can be kept on hand.

Cheesy Spinach with Qunioa

½ cup quinoa

1 cup of water (to cook the quinoa)

2 TBSP olive oil

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

4 cloves garlic, minced

5 -6 cups spinach, organic if possible

1 TBSP lemon juice, or more to taste

2/3 cup grated parmesan

1.  Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa, and cook until the quinoa is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2.  Heat oil.  Stir in the garlic, and cook until the garlic softens and the aroma mellows, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooled quinoa and spinach; cook and stir until the quinoa is hot, and the spinach has wilted. Stir in the lemon juice, and all but a pinch of the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

I love this as a side dish or all by itself for dinner or lunch!  It been a great way for me to go meatless a bit more.

You can really use any combination of cheese and nuts that you like.  I have also tried feta with pine nuts. Very tasty as well, but Parmesan is my favorite so far.  I would suggest a relatively strong tasting cheese.  Hmmmm  I wonder how blue cheese and walnuts would be.

Have you tried Quinoa?

This post is shared at Your Green Resource , Healthy 2Day WednesdayFrugal Days Sustainable WaysTiny Tip TuesdaySeasonal Celebration Sunday and Whip It Up Wednesday.


Fabulous Chewy Granola Bars!

OK, OK, you caught me.  Yes that was me buying Fiber One Chewy Granola bars by the case!  

Fabulous Chewy Granola Bars recipe
The best chewy granola bars ever!

I have been trying to find an alternative to Fiber One Granola bars for a long time now.  I hate buying them because of the ingredients and the waste of individual servings.  But they are so darn convenient!  I have tried other homemade granola bars, none of them passed my kids’ taste test – at least not for long.

Until these!  I combined several recipes I found across the web and did some tweaking myself.  I am happy to say I have been making these at least once a week for the past 2 months – they go so quickly and my kids don’t ask for the others anymore.  The hard part is keeping enough  around.

Seriously, it’s difficult at times to get my kids to eat healthy, so if they like them, that is saying something.

There are 2 versions of this recipe.

Method #1 – Thanks to Betsy from Eco-Novice’s recipe for granola bars,  I tried this variation with success.  Essentially you make granola first, then use that in the bars.  They are not as crumbly and are more crunchy

Method #2 – .is a little quicker, but results in a more crumbly bar.   It doesn’t affect the popularity!

Both are amazing!


3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups brown rice crisp cereal (I have only found them at Whole Foods, but you could use “Rice Krispie” type cereal too)
1/4 cup flaxmeal
1/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds – I really crush these so my kids don’t see big nut pieces
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (for method #1 only)

4 TBSP butter
1/3 cup peanut butter (I use all natural)
1/3 cup almond butter (could use peanut butter)
2/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional, could use dried fruit)

Method #1

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together, except the chocolate chips, if using and the rice crisp cereal.  
  2. Combine the dry ingredients with the melted coconut oil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 mins, mixing every few minutes.  When done, let cool.
  3. Add brown rice crisp cereal
Method #2
  1. Mix all dry ingredients together, except  the chocolate chips, if using.
For either method used above, 
  1. In a small pan, melt the butter, honey, peanut butter and almond butter over medium heat.  Once everything is melted, cook on low for 5 minutes.  Add vanilla.
  2. Mix wet ingredients with dry.  
  3. If using chocolate chips, let the mixture cool  before adding so they don’t melt.
  4. Press into a buttered 9×13 pan.  Press really hard!  I use a piece of wax paper cereal bag on top to help with the pressing.   Let set up in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
You could use all peanut butter or all almond butter.  If you need to be nut-free, try soy nut butter and skip the almonds.  I haven’t tried, but dried fruit could be added as well if you like.
Do you make your own granola bars?

This post was shared at The Green Phone BoothTeach Me TuesdaySeasonal Celebration SundayVintage MauveFrugally SustainableFrom Dream To RealityFabulous Friday and Snacktime Saturday.



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