Avocado. That smooth fleshy fruit that is almost not a fruit. A treasure trove of nutrients- boasting of vitamin C and other antioxidants, potassium and fiber and a high healthy fat content. I never used them much in the states, both because I didn't grow up on them and because they are so expensive most of the time. But when you can by them for the equivalent of ten cents at every corner....! Now I use them quite a bit.

There's the typical guacamole, of course, and we really enjoy that with our rice and beans. I often add avocado to smoothies for more nutrition and fat content. (In fact, when I made some pumpkin pie smoothies one day, with no avocado, my two year old son was scared to try it. Smoothies are meant to be *green*, in his experience!)

Because of their fat, avocados can be substituted as butter in baking. I was delighted to discover this, as butter is unavailable where we are, and I am not too keen on margarine. Recipes online will say you can substitute one on one for butter...  adding a bit more liquid since avocado will not melt like butter and baking at a lower temperature. The problem I have had is that...things turn out tasting like avocado, with a rather bitter edge. I've done only exchanging half the margarine for avocado,  but still wasn't able to hide it. Once- the first time I tried it- I made cookies that turned out a lovely shade of green and tasted delicious with no hint of the avocado bitterness. Was it the sweetness; all the sugar in the cookies covering the avocado, whereas something like bread wouldn't have enough sugar? I leave that to you all to experiment. =)

A little fact I was glad to learn from my sister-in-law: to keep avocado from turning brown, keep its' seed with it. Plop it in the middle of the guacamole or keep it on the half you didn't use and put back in the fridge. Why does it work that way? I don't know, but it does!

Here's a recipe I did find, adapted to my available ingredients and tastes. It uses a lot of avocado, which is nice if you have plenty on hand that need used. (By the way, you can freeze and use avocado later as well. Not for this dish though, probably. =) I am guessing at the amounts- I am not a measurer!


2 or 3 large avocado, depending on size
2 bananas
4 limes (actually, I used lemons...not key limes =)
1 pack of coconut cream powder
1/4 cup sugar
dash of vanilla, if desired

Put everything in blender and blend thoroughly till smooth. The mixture
will have a lovely pudding-like texture. Chill with grated lime peel for
garnish and enjoy! If your leftovers turn brown over the top, its' okay-
it's still yummy!


How do you use avocados? I'd love to see your favorite recipes!

In my family growing up, chocolate cake was a rare treat. It was a birthdays-only special, and  there were only five of us, so at most we had it five times a year. In my husband's family, on the other hand, chocolate cake is a complete meal. :-) I don't know if there's much he enjoys more than a piece of chocolate cake in a bowl with milk poured over it. Needless to say, I have learned to make chocolate cake a little more often than five times a year. :-)

I have two favorite chocolate cake recipes. They both come from a great cookbook called "The Basics and More Cookbook". (More about cookbooks in a future post!) My husband's favorite is actually an oatmeal cake. It is super-moist and tastes great even without frosting. I made it three or four times before I told him that it has oatmeal in it (he doesn't like oatmeal!). The second is better if you're living in a primitive setting. Although you do need cocoa powder, you don't need butter, eggs, or milk for this yummy cake!


And then there's the big question - what about frosting? Powdered sugar can be difficult to find - and if you find it, beware! It could very likely taste more like soap than sugar. Are there alternatives? I have often made chocolate syrup or caramel syrup to drizzle over each slice of cake when serving. Of course fruit is a great topping, especially for other types of cake besides chocolate. :-) I have also made peanut butter "frosting" by heating PB and regular sugar together. What are some alternatives that you've used?



Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

1 c. quick oats

2 c. boiling water

2 c. brown sugar

1 c. butter or oil

4 eggs

2 tsp baking soda

1 T. hot water

2 c. flour

1/3 c. cocoa

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

Pour boiling water over oatmeal. Cover and let cool. Cream sugar and butter. Add beaten eggs and vanilla. Dissolve soda in 1 Tbsp hot water and add. Add oatmeal mixture, then sifted dry ingredients. Grease a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes.

Wacky Cake - aka Egg-less, Butter-less, Milk-less Cake

3 c. flour

2 c. sugar

6 T. cocoa powder

3 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 c. water

3/4 c. oil

4 T. vinegar

Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a greased 13x9 pan and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.


Do you have a favorite chocolate cake recipe? What's your favorite way to serve cake without frosting? Or your favorite frosting recipe that doesn't use powdered sugar? Please share!!

This, people, is pure health food. The Proverbs 17:22 kind - A cheerful heart makes good medicine. :-)

A friend gave me the recipe that inspired these bars. I changed it around a little and came up with a few variations. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you might give these a try. The ingredients should be available in most locations.


Sticky Bars


¾ cup butter, margarine, or oil or a combination of these
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cup flour

Mix, press into 9x13 pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350 or until slightly golden.

TOP LAYER: Pour over crust, and bake for 25 minutes or until set and browned............ this top layer, here's where you can get creative. So far, I have made the following:

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
3 T flour
¾ t salt
1 ½ cup shredded coconut

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
3 T flour
¾ t salt
1 ½ cup roasted peanuts

4 eggs
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup lemon juice
¾ t salt
¾ cup cream

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
3 T flour
¾ t salt
Mix the above. Divide in half. Mix half with ¾ cup peanut butter. Mix the other half with ½ cup cocoa powder. Spread peanut butter mixture over baked crust, then drizzle with chocolate mixture. Bake.

Next up is almond flavoring. You could try whatever ingredients you may have on hand. Dates, raisins? Other nuts? Orange juice or fruit? Instant coffee? Mocha...absolutely. Chocolate chips would never hurt, if you are lucky enough to have those. Cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin spice....

Let us know in the comments what you're thinking!

Happy baking!

This is an all-time family favorite from my childhood, and was one of the best deserts we could make overseas. Who doesn't love the chocolately goodness of these cookies? What a bonus that they're so fast to make!


There are two recipes here. The first is the traditional, rich, sweet candy-like cookie. The second is a slightly healthier version which I developed to avoid using margarine (which tastes strange in Africa) and to cut down on the sugar. It's not that different from an protein ball, really. :-)


Original Chocolate No-Bakes

2 c. sugar

1/2 c. cocoa

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c. margarine

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. peanut butter

3 1/2 c. quick oats

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa, salt, margaine, and milk in a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. remove from heat and quickly add peanut butter, vanilla and oats. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper-covered trays. Cool 1 hour or until set.


"Healthy" Chocolate No-Bakes

1 c. sugar

1/3 c. cocoa

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 c. milk powder

1/2 c. water

1/2 c. peanut butter

2 - 2 1/2  c. oats

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa, salt, milk powder and water in a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute, remove from heat, and quickly add remaining ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper-covered trays. Cool 1 hour or until set.


One more tip: Since we didn't have wax paper, I would cut open plastic bags and use them to line my trays!

Thanksgiving is almost here . . . just over a week away! It can be a challenge to figure out how to celebrate holidays when you live overseas. Is turkey available? Cranberry sauce? Do you know how to make your own stuffing from fresh bread instead of from a Stovetop Stuffing box? And how in the world are you going to make pumpkin pie?

Where we lived in West Africa, we couldn't get pumpkin. Once in a while, we stumbled on some butternut squash which made an okay substitute. But that couldn't be depended on. So I was very thankful for this secret substitute shared by one of my co-workers . . .


That's right, if you have papayas, you can use them in recipes as a substitute for pumpkin. Open the papaya, scoop out the seeds, and cut it into chunks like you would cut a cantalope melon. Boil in a small amount of water until soft, drain well, and mash. This pulp can be used just like pumpkin puree! I have to admit I was pretty skeptical at first, but I tried it and it really does work!

So here's my favorite pumpkin recipe (except for traditional pumpkin pie!). I made this cake using paypaya pretty regularly when we lived overseas!


Pumpkin Chocoate Chip Cake

2c. flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp soda

1 tsp cinnamon

2c mashed pumpkin (or papaya, or winter squash)

3/4 c. oil

2 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 c. nuts (optional)

1 c. chocolate chips


Sift together dry ingredients. Mix liquid ingredients and blend well. Add to dry ingredients. Mix well, using a mixer if you have one. Then gently stir in nuts & chocolate chips. Pour into a greased and floured 13x9 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until done. This is a very moist cake that tastes delicious without frosting! It is also good with cream cheese or chocolate frosting. Or what I often did, when we couldn't get powdered sugar for frosting, is make a chocolate syrup to drizzle over the top when serving. Delicious! This cake also freezes well.


What is the most challenging food for you to make this Thanksgiving? What will you be missing because there is no way to get it or make it in your host country?