Category Archives: Food

Artichauts, Pour Papa, fait comme il faut/Artichokes, in honor of my father, made correctly.

 

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Artichokes in their herb, lemon and garlic Bain Marie getting ready to bathe and steam and emerge beautiful and ready to enjoy.

Most folks have never had an artichoke prepared properly, at least not if they are American. I only prepare artichokes one way, the way I learned from my father, May his memory be for Blessing. I do not pressure cook them or steam them, these methods to me are the opposite of what I want to do with this incredibly special food. If I want to make something taste good I can never hurry in the kitchen, see my commandment number two, from my Ten Commandments.

I first soak the artichokes in a bowl or bucket of water and rinse them after I have cut around them in a circle to take off the spiky tops. This way the folks eating them are not getting poked by them or eating random dirt hidden at the bottom where the flower is tight. Then I prepare the Bain Marie. 

It’s always better to use fresh herbs if you can get them or have them handy. Favorites for me are rosemary sprigs, parsley and tarragon. You can use oregano, thyme or marjoram as well. The artichokes will be infused with the flavor of these herbs, so pick ones whose flavors you enjoy. I put about two inches of water in the bottom of the casserole/dutch oven dish I am going to use for the artichokes. I add white wine or good sherry, and once again, don’t use the cheap stuff, the better the wine or the sherry, the better the flavor. If you don’t have white wine or sherry on hand you can put a dash of Mirin or some white wine vinegar. I rinse a lemon well and cut it in half and squeeze the juice into the water, then I cut the lemon into wedges or slices and add that into the water as well, you may not want to use the whole lemon if you are only doing two artichokes, but if you are doing more than two, go ahead and throw all of that lemon, rind and all in. Then I slice up several fresh garlic cloves and throw those in. Finally, I add some olive oil and often I throw some mustard seeds into this as well along with some ground coriander, good salt and some ground pepper. I let this bath/bain marie get hot, which only takes a few minutes, because it is not a lot of liquid. I place the artichokes in the water and put the lid on, they should have their bottoms covered but not much higher than 1/4 to 1/3 of them should be fully in the water. It is important that you use a pot with a tight-fitting lid and that you choose one big enough so that all your artichokes fit with their bottoms fully in the bain marie.

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Bain Marie, getting ready to make some artichokes delicious!

I let the water come to a boil, this steams them and also infuses them with the ingredients in the bain marie. I turn the heat down just enough to keep them steaming, but not too hot so that all the water dissolves too quickly. You can’t have it too low either or they won’t cook. It’s a delicate balance. If you do the heat correctly, you will have a nice amount of herbed water left over to make a sauce with or to use as a stock for a yummy soup.

Doing artichokes this way takes anywhere from forty minutes to an hour, depending on the artichoke. You don’t want them so over done that the bottoms are mush. You have to tend to them and check on them and be careful when you take off the lid, steam burns are no fun. Also, if the water is evaporating too fast and your artichokes are still not done, add more wine and water before it’s all gone. Test the artichokes to see if they are done by grabbing a leaf directly from them in the pot, if the bottom part you are eating comes off pretty easily and isn’t mush, they are done. If the leaf doesn’t come off easily from the whole flower or you can’t get the bottom part off easily, they aren’t done.

Once they are done, if I am serving them immediately, I remove them from the pot and place them on a large plate all together or in individual bowls. I then pour some of the bain marie water with the herbs over them. You can eat them this way with no other flavors, but being French, that never works for me. I make a fresh mayonnaise to go with them or a lemon butter sauce or a vegan lemon, garlic and herb olive oil dip.

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Mayonnaise Jacques

Mayonnaise Jacques, selons les directions de Papa (according to my father’s directions):

All ingredients need to be at room temperature for optimal blending. I use my vita-mix now, but you can use an electric hand-held mixer as well. Mayonnaise is tricky and won’t always come out properly, it’s something of an art. If it doesn’t plump up, it still tastes good and is more like a sauce than a thick yummy mayonnaise. Don’t give up trying to get it right. You will one day.

  1. Two eggs
  2. 1/2 cup to a cup of good olive oil
  3. a teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  4. juice of one lemon
  5. white wine vinegar
  6. salt and pepper
  7. freshly chopped tarragon or dill
  8. dash of paprika

In a small bowl combine the Dijon, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and the lemon juice, mix together well.

In the blender or bowl using the mixer, add the eggs and mix on high for at least a minute or more, then add the lemon/Dijon mixture and keep blending for another minute or two. This is the tricky part now. You will slowly, very slowly add the olive oil in tiny drips or a slow very thin steady flow. It can take at least five to ten minutes to do this depending on how much olive oil you are using. The mayonnaise should start to thicken and will be warm from the whipping it is getting. When you’ve added all the oil, remove it from the blender (if you are using a blender) and put it in a bowl, fold in the fresh herbs and the dash of paprika and put it in the fridge so it cools. You need to do this before you make the artichokes. You can use this on sandwiches, on fish, on vegetables or just eat it by the spoonful, because it’s that good.

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Always remove the center of the garlic cloves when using garlic.

Vegan Sauce:

In a small saucepan combine juice of one lemon, freshly and finely chopped garlic (one to two cloves), and 1/4 cup or more olive oil. You can also add some fresh herbs to this and some salt or keep the salt out if you are doing less salt. The garlic and fresh herbs with the lemon give a great flavor. Heat this until it is warm and stir, but do not cook on high, you don’t want the garlic to get brown or the olive oil to smoke.

 

Enjoy these lovelies, they can really be your meal when made correctly. You will need a large bowl for discarding the petals once you’ve eaten the bottom parts. To eat the heart, you have to remove the protective urchin like threads that are inside the heart. This is easy when the artichokes are done right and not too hot, just run your thumb between the heart of the artichoke and the stuff you want to remove. You cannot eat these threads, they are pokey as well and don’t taste good.

Here are the artichokes or artichauts (once cooked with the bain Marie poured over them) in their golden bowl waiting to make someone’s tummy happy. I cooked these in my father’s honor tonight as I remember him on what would have been his 96th birthday. I am so grateful for all the wonderful meals we shared together and the way he taught me to make food taste like something out of a fairy tale!

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Artichauts, comme il faut!

Leftover Chicken, Lemon, Curry, Tarragon Soup and a Vegan Variation as well

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The Chicken Variation:

When I roast a chicken, I always keep the bones and carcass and whatever parts don’t get eaten up in the first day or so. If I don’t have time to make the soup then, I throw the chicken parts and the vegetables I roasted it with in the freezer until I have time. The trick here is to not be in a hurry. If you regularly roast a chicken you will regularly have chicken bones and can make stock. You don’t have to do it the same day or the next day.

Ingredients: Leftover chicken, yams, potatoes, carrots, celery, lemon juice, fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste, curry powder and cayenne (optional).

Take the bones, and remove as much of the cooked chicken as you can and set aside in a bowl in your fridge. Then using good water, so if you have a filter, use that water, fill your soup pot 3/4 up with water. Put the whole chicken carcass and various bones into the water. It’s okay for their to be some skin and bits of chicken. Let all of this boil for at least an hour, you can turn the heat down once it starts boiling, but you want it hot and cooking for a long time. I usually do two hours.

Then, I strain the liquid and let the chicken carcass and bones cool down. I put the liquid stock back on the stove. At this point I add whatever left over vegetables I have that I roasted with the chicken if there are any. I add a yam or two, a whole onion, carrots, celery, fennel, basically whatever vegetables I have on hand. I let all of this cook for another hour. I put a liberal amount of curry powder in and salt the soup as well. I often add a little cayenne or other spicy peppers depending on who will be eating the soup. I like a little kick, but this is optional. Once all the veggies have gotten soft. I blend this soup with the leftover chicken pieces from before and whatever remaining chicken I claim from the now cooled down bones. Once all of this is blended, it goes back on the stove and I add the juice of at least one lemon if not two, freshly cut herbs if I have them. The best herb for this soup is tarragon and you can use dried tarragon. I add chopped parsley and basil as well. These are the three main herbs I use for this soup. Basil helps with colds and flu, tarragon gives this soup a sweet tang and parsley is everywhere in my cooking.

Vegan Variation:

Ingredients: Roasted Root Veggie stock (see recipe link below), yams, potatoes, carrots, celery, lemon juice, fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste, curry powder and cayenne (optional).

This soup is delicious without the chicken stock or chicken, but you need to make a roasted root vegetable stock to get the warm flavor, see the Brazilian Sweet Potato Tomato and Carmelized Onion soup recipe for directions on that. Once your stock is strained and ready, just add the vegetables as mentioned above and follow all the same directions. You just won’t be adding any chicken parts. You can also cook some of the veggies in olive oil before adding the strained roasted root veggie stock to give the soup more oomph!

Serve this soup with crackers or bread or just by itself. I always make a big batch and put several small containers in the freezer. Speaking of storing food, it’s important that you know how to do that properly. You should never put hot soup in the fridge or freezer. I put the soup into 1/2 gallon glass mason jars when it is still hot or warm. I fill a big bowl or a plastic tub with cold water and some ice-packs and let the soup cool down in these containers before putting it in the fridge. I don’t freeze any of it until the following day when I take the cold soup from the fridge and then put it into plastic freezer safe containers. I always label with the month and year and list the ingredients as well so the soup can be given to my vegan friends or my chicken eating friends in need.

As with any of my recipes, if you have questions, email me or contact me through this blog. I’m more than happy to help you have a great soup!

 

Shabbat Structure: Simply Sublime Spiritual Technology

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Solo Shabbat in Eire, Holy Hill Hermitage, Ireland, in my cabin named Clare in the Fall of 2016

Simple Shabbat, the basic structure is a phenomenal series of steps and prayers and practices to elevate the soul and align us with the essence of creation. I am writing this piece because a young woman, who was also on retreat, three years ago at the same hermitage as myself in Ireland, asked me about the order of the prayers. I led a few Shabbat ceremonies, both in my cabin and at the main house, for the other people on retreat. I was mostly alone, but there were moments of connection with the other hermits, clerics, and other folks taking sacred space in solitude.

I remember once being told by a dear friend of mine, Stephen Jenkins, professor Emeritus at Humboldt State University, who was getting ready to teach a three-day session on Judaism in his World Religions class, “Wish me luck, Nicole.” I responded with: “I don’t want to wish you luck, I need to come in and teach this part of your class.” I’m not sure those were my exact words, but this was the beginning of my lecturing in his World Religions Class. I have guest-lectured, during the Judaism portion of his classes, for over fifteen years now.

Some things cannot be put simply and survive the stripping down, especially when we are talking about Shabbat or Judaism in a three-day period of time. The mere idea of three days in a class on campus, to cover the topic, made me a little sick to my stomach. It felt kind of like asking me to describe the magnificence of the sunrise or my love for my children or any other sublime and mysterious, historical and elemental quality of the universe. It’s just not a three day or a one minute text or email kind of thing.

So, thank you Chelsea Smith, for asking me this question about the order of the prayers and why we cover the challah. I’m going to try to be brief, completely contradicting myself from the previous sentences. Of course, me being brief, is an oxymoron in and of itself.

When I lead a service I have a basic structure that I follow, which is not my invention and which has changed over the thousands of years that Jewish folks have been observing the Sabbath. I choose from various prayer books I like or I incorporate elements into my practice from those prayers when I am being a little looser in my observance.

You really begin by preparing for the time and setting the space. I clean my home, cook special foods, make challah (a braided Jewish egg bread).  I’ll get my recipe up here one of these days. You then create an altar. When the Beit Ha Midkash/Holy Temples were destroyed, Judaism did not die for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that we took the elements of our sacred service and rites that were observed in the Holy Temple and brought them into our homes and into our dining rooms.

As long as you have light (candles or oil lamps), wine, salt, bread, water, and prayers offered from your heart, you have the elements of the basic service. This means every Jewish home becomes a sacred temple in time and space. No one can say it better than Abraham Joshua Heschel, who wrote a simple short book called The Sabbath. I won’t begin to go where he has, but he describes Shabbat/the Sabbath as  both a Sanctuary and as a Palace in Time.

So, we begin by clearing and cleaning as if to welcome a sacred guest. That guest is the Sabbath Queen or the Shechinah or the Seventh Day. She is likened to a bride, she is always referred to in the feminine. We make special foods. For folks with little time or money, even during the Shoah and times of tremendous ugliness and torture, Jewish folks would hide a crust of bread or save one olive so they’d have two on Shabbat instead of one. Folks keep their best cheeses, oils, foods of any kind, for the three meals that occur beginning 18 minutes before the sun sets every Friday evening and ending when there are three stars in the sky the following night, Saturday. It’s roughly twenty-five hours or so, a little longer than one rotation of our spinning planet.

In Ireland, I couldn’t go buy a challah or get bread from Josh Fox, my favorite local baker, here in Arcata. I needed to make it. My little kitchen in my cabin, didn’t have an oven, so I had to make sure I could use the communal kitchen and arrange a time to be taking it over for many hours. I didn’t always do this, for many reasons, but here’s a picture of two small challahs I made for one of my blissful solo Shabbats.

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Small challahs, one in a traditional three braid form and one shaped like a Jewish Star of David, there’s also that key element SALT!

These Challahs are uncovered here, but they are traditionally covered with a cloth when we recite all the blessings before eating our Friday evening meal. This was the original question from Chelsea, “Why do you cover the bread again?”

We cover the bread because it is the final blessing we say before beginning our festive meal and we don’t want to hurt its feelings. This tiny piece of spiritual technology teaches us that if we are concerned about the feelings of our bread, so much so that we cover it, so it doesn’t know its the last in a long line of blessings, we better be that concerned about the feelings of all those we encounter. The bread thinks it’s the only blessing or the best blessing or the special blessing, because it somehow hasn’t heard or experienced all the previous ones. This seems a little comical, but it’s essential to Judaism. We physicalise our practices in small and large ways to make it not a mental exercise, but to embody the essence of what we are reaching for.

So, once the bread is made, I prepare the other foods and make my home and body ready to receive my guest. I take a bath or a shower, or I do a Mikveh (ritual immersion in living water, see Mikveh Movement and Me). Then I lay the table. I put the candles or oil wicks I am going to light out, I get the wine ready, open it and let it breathe so it is at its best. I make sure I have my prayer books or other readings I want to use, I pick fresh flowers and set the table more beautifully than I do for the rest of the week. It’s truly a special time.

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My Shabbat altar from my window seat in Clare.

Once all is ready, and usually this is minutes before you are required to kindle the lights of Shabbat, if I have time I meditate or center myself and let the week’s events play through my mind and release them. My beloved teacher, May his memory always be a Blessing, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi sometimes used a small cardboard box that he passed around and asked folks to deposit their weeks’ cares, worries, and experiences into. He would then take it and put it outside the room or the house. I sometimes do this with children. It’s a great way to physically demonstrate the practice of letting go.

Then I cover my head with a shawl (creating a sacred space in my body) and light the candles and move my hands over them to bring the light of Shabbat into my whole being, I move my hands over them in a circular motion and bring their essence over my head, eyes and body three times. I then recite the first of many blessings. This blessing is thanking the Divine for instructing us to kindle the lights of the day and to observe the practice of it by resting deeply.

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Photo by Temple Beth El’s President Joseph Hale, from one of my Lay-led Shabbat Services

It’s very hard to talk about even one of these blessings in a short way, but that’s my assignment right now. Arrrggghhhh! Each one of these practices have books and teachings about them that deserve attention. Simple structure, okay, after the blessing for the Sabbath light (remember how light was the first thing created in the Universe?), we welcome the Angels of the Most High (the special Shabbat-only angels). These angels only come down to this earthly realm if they are invited and your space is ready for them. Did you set a space for the sacred guest, did you create a place of beauty for Holiness to hover? We welcome them and ask them to bless us with peace and then we let them depart. They have to go everywhere they are invited, so, they can’t linger. Their blessing though is so magnificent that it imbues the rest of the evening. As angels they can and do move through space and time differently than we do.

This is my favorite blessing, and even if I’m not doing more than just the basic layout, I almost never skip this one. I close my eyes and feel their presence and I am uplifted to the realm of the Holy One, for just a second or a moment, but that’s simply sublime!

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Detail with Angel, sculpture in glass, given to me by a lovely woman who was at Holy Hill for a few days and who was part of a discussion about angels that miraculously occurred and which connected me with the incredible Irish mystic Lorna Byrne who sees and speaks with the angels.

Next we bless the children. This blessing is not just for folks with children, in my way of doing things, but a moment to name all the children in our lives or that we are thinking about. In a traditional setting the parents place their hands over the heads of their children and recite three blessings. One for boys, one for girls, and one for all of the above. I just generally do the all of the above since there are many folks who aren’t identified as one or the other. The prayer said over everyone is the priestly blessing originally offered by the Kohanim, (of which I am one). I like the male and female blessings as well, so sometimes I do all of them and just ask folks to align on the gender spectrum, however they wish, male, female, somewhere in between, or inclusive of it all.

Next is the blessing over wine. This is the VERY modified order of blessings at the table. There are many, many more, but if you do these blessings you are basically covered. The blessing over the wine isn’t just about giving thanks for the wine or grape juice. It’s the blessing that recounts the order of the Holy One’s creating of the universe and ending with the day of rest. It’s a blessing you do while holding a glass of wine, but it’s about acknowledging, thanking and sanctifying the DAY of rest. It’s longer than the other blessings and it’s beautiful!

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Shabbat Table, chez moi in Bayside, wine open and breathing, Challahs covered, salt on the table and right before candle-lighting. Artwork by Thao Le Khac, Joy Dellas, my grandmother Perla Barchilon and some Italian tile maker from a hundred years ago.

After the wine blessing, we do a ritual hand washing with a special two-handled cup. We aren’t cleaning our hands, we are purifying them. It’s a mikveh for our hands. We recite the blessing with our hands raised above our heads after having poured water three times over our right hand and then three times over our left hand and drying them with a clean cloth. The blessing basically says, Blessed are You, Holy One, who has instructed us concerning the raising/lifting/immersing of our hands.

This is crucial. Before we actually eat our meal, we’re almost there (I promise), we raise our hands towards the heavens. I think of this as dipping my hands in holiness and sanctifying them so that they only do good. I want to bring down the honey and love and goodness of the Divine realms and only have my hands be the vessels of that. I never want my hands to be hitting or hurting or tearing or harming others or the earth. No small task, which is why, we need reminding, hence the blessing!

Then we uncover that poor challah, who now is the most rich indeed. We’re hungry and excited, the challah is golden and the light of the sun is gone. We have the glow of the candles and the light reflected off the windows and each other’s eyes and now we give thanks for the miracle of bread. Bread is a miracle. The play of water, salt, yeast, grain and magic that makes it rise is how we too are made. Like the bread, we need to rise. We need time, rest, the right ingredients and balance of earthly elements, sugars and salts and magic to create pockets of air, or lightness so that we are magnificent.

Then we break the bread and dip it in the salt, which represents the promise of the Divine. Salt is a preservative, the original one, way back in the day. It reminds us of the value of commitment, of time moving across millenia, it’s the taste of the moon and stars and the ocean and our sweat and it connects us to our ancestors and life.

Then we eat and share stories and talk for hours. There’s another whole bunch of blessings after the meal….. but I’ll leave those for another day!

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My Papa Jacques Barchilon, enjoying his Shabbat dinner, over a year ago. He’s in Heaven now, where the food and the company far exceed anything I can create here. I miss him so!

Best Baba Baby! (“R” rated but worth it!)

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A very small amount of the hand mushed and textured version of Baba Ganouj/Ganoush. The small cup is a favorite of mine, meant for green tea, but graced with a frog (my favorite creature) and sitting on one of my brother Paul Barchilon’s tiles.

1–5 eggplants (the big round/long ones, not small Japanese ones). The variation in amounts of eggplant is related to how much you want to have on hand for the volume of folks you are serving

tahini 1 tablespoon per eggplant

juice of ¾ to one whole lemon per eggplant

salt (a few shakes or pinches of good salt, not table salt) See my post Let’s Talk Salt.

drizzle of olive oil (approximately ¼ cup for 2 or more eggplants)

1–3 cloves of peeled garlic per eggplant. It is crucial to remove the centers of the garlic cloves for this dish, so your Baba is not bitter.

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DISCLAIMER: The following recipe descriptor is considered inappropriate by some. It is R rated and for mature audiences.

This is the easiest eggplant dish there is, and in fact the key is to forget you are making it. Wash your eggplant and fork it, then place it on a baking pan in the broiler or oven. You can do this over a flame or in a cast iron pan on the stove, but I don’t recommend doing it that way. It takes a lot more effort on your part. You have to turn it every few minutes so all the sides get exposed and the eggplant cooks through and through. The oven method is less hard on your fingers, but the flavor will be less smokey. Preheat your oven to 400° or use the lower rack of your broiler. The broiler method is much faster cooking and you have to turn the eggplants at least once, so it’s not the walk away method.

The key here is that once you’ve placed that eggplant in the oven, with some oil spread on the baking sheet or on a piece of tinfoil, walk away, wash your hair, write a few letters, do something else! When you smell the eggplant and wonder what that aroma is, then it is done.

It will be collapsed and mushy. This can take anywhere from 20–40 minutes depending on your eggplant. Using a hot pad or glove remove your eggplant from the broiler or oven. Let it sit for about twenty minutes until you can handle picking it up by its stem. My hands are seasoned from years of cooking, so I do this fairly quickly. You can wait an hour if you want. In a bowl, start to peel your eggplant, with your fingers. It will start to fall apart, that’s fine. If it’s a very seedy eggplant, get rid of as many seeds as you can with your hands. You need to gentle the seeds away from the pulp. The seeds can make this dish bitter. It’s very hard to get all of them without also losing some of your eggplant, so a few seeds is okay, but you want to remove as much of them as you can.

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Warm eggplants minus skin, waiting to be gently separated from their seeds.

This is the best part of the dish.  Getting intimate with a warm wet eggplant is like interacting with a certain lovely part of the female anatomy. In fact making this dish can be a good prelude to sexual activity. When you’re done enjoying yourself put the eggplant pulp into the blender or if you want to continue your sensual experience, mash it with your fingers or use a fork. It will be wet and juicy.

I often do this step directly over the blender if the eggplants aren’t super seedy since I want the smoked eggplant oils as part of the flavor. Discard the stem, the peels and the extra seeds. Combine all the other ingredients into the blender or your bowl and mix. Add more salt if you need to or more lemon. Serve warm with a garnish of fresh chopped parsley. This can be eaten with crackers, bread, vegetables, or served over rice. It is best at room temperature or warm. It will keep in the fridge for a week or so. Some folks like their Baba more blended with a creamy texture, others like it more thick and wild. Use the blender for the smoother variety and the fork and finger mushing for the chunkier variety. No matter which way you like your eggplants, you will enjoy making this dish!

From my heart, hands and other parts of me, Lots of Love to you as you get into your Baba! See Commandment number 6!

 

Nicole’s Nutritious, Num, Num, Nummy-Nut Balls

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Nut Ball with Tart Cherry Heart

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup to one cup of shredded, unsweetened, toasted or raw coconut
  2. ten or more dates, pitted and chopped fine (you must use a cutting board and knife, do not destroy your blender or food-processor with this task, it is a messy, sticky job, but it’s a by hand job, not by machine job)
  3. 1/2 cup to one cup of almond meal/ground almonds
  4. 1/4 cup rose-water or orange flower water (your preference)
  5. one to two tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, honey or maple syrup
  6. cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Put the almond meal and coconut in a large wooden or ceramic bowl (not metal) and add the chopped dates. Wash your hands, dry them and then mix with your hands until you get the dates and nut meats well mixed.

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Shredded coconut, ground almonds and chopped Medjool dates

Add the rosewater and syrup and mix again, you will now get something more like a ball of clay. Once you have mixed this up and it is all adhering together, add the cinnamon and nutmeg.

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Big lump of yummy stuff all adhering together well.

Once you’ve mixed in the spices, you can start taking small lumps from your big lump and rolling these together into small balls. Add a tart cherry to the top or a whole almond and you are done. These will keep for quite some time in the fridge. I prefer to eat them at room temperature, so take them out an hour before you serve. Some folks like them cold. Try them both ways and see what your preference is. These are gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free (mostly, the pomegranate syrup, honey or maple syrup are a kind of sugar, but they aren’t white sugar). These nut-balls are addictive and you will find you’ve eaten several before you know it!

Enjoy!

 

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25 Nutty, Num, Num, Nummy Nut balls!