recipe: healthy chocolate mousse {tasty thursday}

avocado chocolate mousse

[I tried to “style” the mousse in a pretty glass. Obviously, I was very successful. The next Ansel Adams, perhaps?]

This recipe isn’t for everyone, but I adored the outcome. And Ryan liked it too.

For years I had seen vegan/raw recipes for chocolate mousse, in which the main ingredient was….



Yes, indeed.

The background: Philomena isn’t a big eater. I mean, she isn’t necessarily picky, because she’ll eat whatever we put on her tray…but, she won’t eat a lot of it, you know?

Avocados are the great exception. I know I exaggerate like a thousand times every blog post, but in all seriousness, I think probably close to 90% of her caloric intake comes from avocados. At the end of most meals, if she hasn’t eaten a lot, we’ll offer her avocado. And almost without exception, she’ll eat at least half of one, sometimes more. We are totally okay with this, because as you know, avocados are full of good fats.

This fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) can be crazy expensive. However, Aldi’s often runs specials on conventional ones for such discounted prices that we totally stock up. If you buy them unripened, then refrigerate after they ripen, you can keep avocados on hand longer than you might imagine.

So, anyway, recipes for chocolate mousse with avocados are all over the internet, but I was always quite skeptical to attempt them. However, since we had a good amount of avocados on hand, I thought I’d give it a try.

The process couldn’t have been simpler! The end result was smooth, rich, and creamy. Contrary to what many of the recipes boast, I wouldn’t say this tastes exactly like normal chocolate mousse. There is definitely a different aftertaste to it, but it’s not bad. I don’t think you’d be able to “trick” someone into thinking it was the real deal (well, maybe unsuspecting kids), but as a dessert in and of itself, it is quite tasty.

And the ingredients are probably things you already have on hand:

avocado chocolate mousse ingredients

Sooo…if you’re looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, but want to stay on the healthy train, this is a great alternative!


Chocolate “Mousse”

[adapted from a bunch of different online recipes…]


2 very ripe avocados

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

3 Tablespoons real maple syrup [although, I think any liquid sweetener would work, like honey or agave nectar]

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

two dashes of salt

chocolate chips for garnishing [totally optional]


1. In a food processor [I think a blender might work too…even a hand blender], process the avocado until smooth.

2. Add the remaining ingredients. Taste. Adjust ingredients as needed. [For example, a lot of recipes I saw used a full 1/4-cup cocoa powder and sweetener, but I found that unnecessary.]

3. Put into two bowls or glasses. Garnish with optional chocolate chips.

3. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes, preferably two hours.

[Note: This recipe is highly adaptable. I think next time I might add a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter! Or maybe garnish with berries.]


Five “Favorites” (1st ed.)

I found an even more easy link-up than 7 Quick Takes.
And so…here are five favorite-right-now things from the most consistent blogger on the internet.


Homemade “Almond Power Bars

almond power bars

These are incredible! Wow. I didn’t even put the chocolate layer on top, and they are still absolutely delicious. [I am afraid to use the chocolate, because I know I will love it, and then there will be no going back.] Ryan doesn’t like almonds or coconut (which is pretty much what these are), but he said they were palatable, perhaps even good. I made a batch with the virtuous intention of “cutting them into individual servings and freezing them for future snacking.” [Apparently “future snacking” involves eating half the pan in less than 24 hours.]


Natural Ant Killer
This is our first Spring in the new-to-us-but-very-very-old house. And all of the lovely Spring showers sleet brought an infestation of ants. Blah. Ugh.

No, the ants are not one of my favs.

However, after extensive googling of “natural ant killers” I came across this tutorial [essentially Borax + sugar + water]. It has been amazing! I put lots of lids with this concoction on the counter tops [the army of insects preferred locale] and after only an hour, one of them looked like this:
ant trap

[Lovely, eh?]

It’s been a few days, and the mixture seems to be working! And this warrants a fav.


IMG_8962bw[picture via Mollie Wetta]

You’re not supposed to have favorites among your nieces [and I don’t…promise!], but just this week, G is my favorite.

Why? Because this is such a special time in her life. Last Sunday was her first piano recital, this Sunday is her first holy communion (!!!), and next Sunday is her dance recital. A busy little lady.

Oh, and apparently, she is basically becoming me, for better or worse. For example, her teacher describes her writing as “having a distinct voice…which is very dramatic.”



Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout

samuel smith's organic chocolate stout

We had some friends over for dinner last week, and they brought this beer. It was probably intended for Ryan, and, yes, he thinks it’s pretty amazing. However, I am the one madly in love with it. Somehow it is deeply chocolate-y, without being too sweet. Bold and yet still smooth. How is this possible? Magic, I tell you.


a “made” bed

[Sorry I didn’t take a picture of our bed. I thought that might be a little creepy.]

This seems a little ridiculous, I know. We try to keep the “main” area of the house tidy-ish throughout the week, but neither Ryan nor I usually care about having the bed made…so we don’t do it every day.

However, for some reason lately I’ve been needing more order in my life, so part of this pursuit has been actually making the bed every morning. I can’t even put into words how organized and peaceful I feel when I walk into our room. It is such a little gesture, but it has made a big impact on my attitude. I think I can consider myself a grown-up now.

So, there you go…now see what everyone else in the blogiverse is fav-ing right now.

meal plan: week of April 22

For the three of you who care:

Monday- I didn’t get to the nachos last week, so that’ll be tonight. We’re even going to wait on our gluttonous treat until the babe is asleep… Even more, we’re going to eat the nachos whilst watching Mad Men and drinking. I am counting down the minutes to this adventure. [My standards for “adventure” are sadly low.]

Tuesday- veggie fried rice [Inspiration here]

Wednesday- hamburgers with sweet potato fries

Thursday- family dinner (!!!!!)

Friday- black bean soup, probably with spinach quesadillas

Saturday- some sort of nice lettuce salad with chicken on top…probably an Asian-inspired dressing.

Philomena: 16 Months-ish


So, I’ve started this post about 2,389 times in the past couple weeks, but I keep getting distracted and ramble-y [shocker]. Like, I had to change the title from “15 Months,” because because that much time had passed.

Essentially, I want to update the Internet with Mena’s recent going-ons. [I know that approximately zero of you care, but since the baby calendar ended at 12 months, I am already starting to lose track of her little milestones.]

So, anyway as an introduction here is a true conversation between myself and my five-year-old niece a couple weeks ago:

Niece: What’s a toddler?

Me: Oh, when a baby grows and he can walk and talk, we call him a toddler.

Niece: So, Philomena is a toddler?

Me: Of course not! She’s only a baby.

Niece: But, she can walk, and she says words now.

Me: Oh, um, yeah, but…

[And that was when I started to cry a little.]

One day Philomena was a little baby, dependent on me for everything…and the next day she was a toddler, well, still pretty dependent on me for everything. Her big-girl-ness makes my heart burst just as much as her infant-ness, but in a very different way. Tonight I quipped to Ryan that I hope her adolescent-ness will make my heart delight just as much as these stages. Probably not. But one can hope.

So, here goes:

– She was slow to get on this train, but Mena finally started “really” walking at around 14 months. She was content to do this weird knee-scoot thing for months [surprisingly effective for mobility], but then quite literally overnight she started walking everywhere. And I would even venture to say that now her walking can be described as “running.” Everyone kept saying things to me like, “oh, you don’t want to be in a hurry for her to walk!” However, honestly, it is much easier than the perpetual crawling. Case in point, I can actually put her down in public places for a few moments without her phalanges all over the germ-ridden floors of said places.

– Mena is really into her tummy, most particularly her belly button. And this reality is seriously so cute that it would make even the most cold-hearted person giggle. I know we shouldn’t be encouraging our daughter to pull up her shirt and show her naval to any unsuspecting person who comes into her path, but seriously, it is hilarious. And lately she’s been wanting to see our bellies on a regular basis, the novelty of which ends when we are outside the confines of our own home, or she throws a fit when the person kindly refuses [sorry, Mom].

– She is starting to have kinda-opinions on her appearance. [On any given day, it would seem this “opinion” is a crusty nose and avocado-stained shirt…but that’s not what I actually mean.] Philomena knows where I keep the hair clips, so she often insists that I give her the bin, so she can pick one out, then she tries to put it in her own hair. That is about as successful as you can imagine, so finally she relents and lets me do it. She then runs to the mirror and gives herself a cheesy smile. As I commented on Instagram/Facebook the other day, this reality scares me…and makes me a little proud.



– Her passionate love of ducks has subsided a bit. On one hand, it’s a little sad to see this cute phase end; on the other, my life has been simplified without a back-up rubber duckie in my purse, the diaper bag, the car, and in every room of the house…lest she lost it and needed a “duuuuuuh! duuuuuuh!” now.

– However, she still likes looking at ducks on the computer. And babies. She is obsessed with pictures of babies. If Ryan’s or my laptops are anywhere in her periphery, she immediately starts doing the baby sign for “please”…then points to the computer, then does the sign for “baby.” And she continues this pattern with increasing desperation over and over again. Then, she adds in some screams. Aaaaand eventually I always give in and we have our little google image ritual.

– Speaking of signs, she does quite a bit of them. I was going to make a list of her current signs and words for this blog post, but that seems like a lot of work. I *love* the fact she is at an age in which she can communicate so well. Although her verbal words are limited [but growing daily], with her signs and facial expressions and pointing, I can usually gather what she wants…

– …and usually she wants something to do with water. Be it washing her hands, putting her hand in our glasses, pouring the water out of her sippy cup, drinking out of a straw, or playing in the bathtub…water is the greatest thing in her little universe. When she had pink eye, we neurotically washed her hands, and this was pretty much her dream situation. My sister found a water table for her at a consignment sale; I have a feeling that is going to be well-used this summer.

– If anything would surpass her love of babies and water, it would be “outside.” Oh, “outside”…I both love and hate you. I love when you are warm, and Philomena can spend hour after hour just walking around our yard, whilst delighting in the birds, flowers, blades of grass, random pebbles, sticks, and weird trash that blew onto our property… and whilst responding to dog barks from blocks away, smiling and pointing at absolutely nothing, eating dirt, and staring off into the distance for full minutes. I love you, outside, when the weather is nice enough that I can just leave the door open in the kitchen, and Mena can wander in and out and entertain herself (!!!!) while I make dinner. And walks! Oh, outside, you give us glorious walks in our pretty neighborhood.

And yet, weather, I also despise you. Because you are fickle. So darn fickle. After a day of beauty you turn cold. And windy. And rainy. But, my baby/toddler still adores you, and dramatically begs to be with you. She forlornly stands by the door, points to you, and pleads, “side!” “side!” “side!” She is not fickle. She is consistent in her adoration.

Since no one asked, I thought I’d show you multiple photos of Philomena and her unfaithful lover:

outside 1

outside 2

outside 3

outside 4outside 5

Aaaaand, the best picture for last. She is doing the sign for “I love you.”

outiside 6

Basically, this stage is wonderful. Philomena is old enough to be catching onto so much; the little connections she makes really are neat to observe. She is unbelievably affectionate and perceptive. She is starting to assert her will, BUT…she is still young enough that distraction works when she doesn’t get her way. My days with her are a joy.

In conclusion, this post was too long. Way too long.

Your reward for getting this far.

meal plan: week of April 15

I promise a “real” post soon….or we can hope.

Monday- Asian carrot soup and lettuce wraps [both the soup and the wrap filling rescued from the freezer]

Tuesday- I didn’t get to the black bean and quinoa stuffed peppers last week, so we’ll try again this week.

Wednesday- family dinner [!!!!!!!!!]

Thursday- sesame chicken over brown rice

Friday- pizza…not sure what kind. Perhaps sweet potato? [Inspiration here.]

Saturday- nachos, but I’ll sub ground beef for the chicken, because we have a serious amount of ground beef in the freezer. I miiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhht make my own chips, if I’m in the mood to procrastinate another task.

meal plan: week of April 8

Everyone can take a collective sigh of relief now that you know what we’ll be eating this week.

Monday- spicy meatballs and rice with broccoli [inspiration here]

Tuesday- chicken and bean burrito bowls [think a lame version of Chipotle]…I might, MIGHT make homemade chips and guacamole, if I’m in a generous mood.

Wednesday- family dinner [so spoiled, I know]

Thursday- chicken pot pie with fruit

Friday- spinach quiche with homefries [is that how you spell it?] and fruit. I’ve actually never made homefries/home fries/home-fries before, oddly enough. So, that’ll be my google mission for the week.

Saturday- black bean and quinoa stuffed peppers [It’s one of our fav recipes. I’ll double the filling ingredients, because it freezes well.]

And I’m back…I think.

Lent was long. Very long. I know it was technically the same duration as every other Lent in my 31 years of life, but it felt…endless. The Lord even allowed Holy Week to be particularly, um, sacrificial? A mysterious outbreak of crazy hives [Ryan], an infection from nursing [me], and pink eye [Philomena] piled up on my soul, and I just couldn’t wait for Easter. I kept whining to Ryan, “I neeeeeeeed the resurrection!”

And Easter came. I made a fancy meal for Holy Saturday night. It gave me a stomach ache. On Easter afternoon the pink eye returned to our little babe, followed by days of high fever. To deal with my stress, I gorged on robin eggs and jelly beans. Shockingly, this too made me sick. And now Ryan’s allergies are in full-force, complete with sore throat and runny nose.


I am saying all this not just to complain and make you feel sorry for me [although that’s an added bonus], but to just say that even with the resurrection, as glorious and hope-giving as it is, we still live in a broken, fallen world. And I need Him. Much more than I did even 40 days ago. I suppose this is what Lent is about.

It was also about giving up something that I had no idea was so precious to me: my good friend, Miss Internet [no clue why I made it feminine]. I had planned on making a list throughout Lent of all that I had learned with my time away. But I didn’t.

Really, all I learned was this: I love the Internet. And I despise the Internet.

Deep, huh?

In all seriousness, the first couple weeks without Facebook/blogs/Instagram/recipe sites were very difficult. Not to diminish the struggles of true addicts, but I honestly felt like I was in withdrawal. I would start to type in web addressees out of instinct, but then have to stop myself. [It is pathetic when web surfing is unconscious.] My days seemed empty somehow. I also gave up radio, podcasts, and music which made them much more quiet too. I seriously didn’t know if I could do it. I feel silly saying that now, but it’s true.

But then, something began to happen. I slowly started to love not having the Internet. I realized that for a long time all of this reading and “connecting” had been almost a burden. Like, “oh I can’t forget to take pictures of this meal for the blog.” And, “I haven’t been on Instagram all day! There are so many abstract, grainy photos to see!”

Being off the grid also had the unexpected outcome of a few friends who went out of their way to email me and call me just to see how I was doing and catch me up on their lives. This little gesture made my heart swell.

And I had so.much.more.time. Naptime was ridiculously productive.

But, then Easter weekend came. And on the VERY first night of being back on the ‘ol world wide web, this literally happened: “Oh, Ryan, I know I was supposed to be cleaning up the dishes and the kitchen while you were getting Mena ready for bed, but well, I lost track of time catching up on Facebook.” No joke. I stood there in the kitchen for maybe 20 minutes blatantly ignoring the task in front of me, because I had to scroll through days of newsfeed in my semi-stalkerish manner.

When I opened up Google Reader [and, um, what’s up with THAT situation?! Ugh.] I felt overwhelmed, seriously overwhelmed, by all the “catching up” to do. Not just among my real-life friends [insert apology for not commenting on all your great thoughts while I was gone], but also all those people who I feel as if I know. It is like I “owed” it to them to read all they had written. It stressed me out. A lot.

And I longed for the freedom of Lent again.

Where does this leave me now? I’m not sure. There are days in which I vow never to blog again. And there are days like today in which these words were just itching to get out. And I have recipes to share. And meal plans to post. And a baby [toddler?] to gush about lovingly.

However, I also have beautiful weather that was made for playing at the park. And a messy house that needs to be cleaned. Oh yeah, and a couple months ago I was handed my dream professional opportunity of a lifetime that demands countless hours of my time every day…whilst being a full-time mother and teaching one day a week. [I’m not going to talk about the particulars of the job here on the blog, but if you want more details, feel free to email me.]  

So, basically, I have no idea what’s going to happen from this point forward.

We’ll see.