About Hannah

Hannah Willette is a mother of two who loves to feed her family nutritious, whole food. Her love of cooking and organic gardening led her to create an online collection of deliciously simple recipes at www.thewholekitchen.com. If she is not in the kitchen, you can find her enjoying the outdoors with her family.

Chestnut Pancakes and Maple-Pecan Syrup

By now, many of us are listening to Christmas music in our cars, at work, and in the comfort of our homes.  One of the most well-known Christmas songs and a favorite among many is “The Christmas Song”, or subtitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open-Fire”. You know…

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos…

This song was written in 1944, and while the lyrics play out for many of us of caroling and dressing up warm,  there is one line that is hard to relate to. “Chestnut roasting on an open fire.” We didn’t exactly roast nuts at our house during Christmas. For over 25 years I have never tasted a roasted chestnut until recently my curiosity got the best of me.

The Christmas Chestnut

Long ago, during the months of November and December, pushcarts full of a variety of nuts filled the streets of cities. Seasonal nuts were precious and looked upon as a ‘treat’ or a luxury to have with meals. People fled to these pushcarts to buy a bag of nuts and saved them to be eaten only on Christmas.

The most popular nut was often the prized chestnut.

Chestnuts were typically served after the Christmas dinner as the final course. Often times, the nut was roasted in an open fire so the sweet aroma filled the house. The roasted nut would then be served with a fig or orange for a special Christmas dessert.

Nutrient Composition

Chestnuts are rather unique in their macronutrient make-up. They are high in carbohydrates and very low in fat, unlike all other nuts. In 100 grams of chestnuts you’ll find 53 grams of carbohydrates. Of those 53 grams, 11 come from simple sugars, 5 from fiber and the remaining 37 grams is starch. That makes them slightly sweet, especially when roasted.

Each nut is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Take vitamin C for example, every 100 grams of chestnuts provides 43 mg of vitamin C (72 % of DRI).

Many cultures around the world eat chestnuts as part of their daily diet since their starchy composition is similar to that of corn, plantain, and sweet potato. The nut can even be turned into flour and used for baking. After roasting, the nut is often added to stuffing and salads to embellish the taste.

Chestnut Pancakes and Maple Pecan Syrup

A favorite of mine is using roasted chestnuts to make Christmas pancakes. These pancakes will keep the family full throughout the morning while presents are being unwrapped and friends and family come over to visit.


2 cups roasted chestnuts
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup almond milk
3 tablespoon maple syrup, or 1 teaspoon liquid stevia

Maple Pecan Syrup

3/4 cup raw pecans
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt


In a blender combine all the pancake ingredients. Puree until the batter is smooth and thick.

On a hot non-stick griddle, measure out 1/4 cup of pancake batter per pancake. Cook each pancake for 2-3 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, wash out the blender and make the maple pecan syrup.

In the blender, combine all the maple syrup ingredients and pulse several times until desired texture is reached. Transfer the syrup to a saucepan and gently warm up the syrup over medium-heat.

Drizzle the warm syrup over the pancakes and enjoy.

Will you be eating chestnuts this year?

Facing the Holidays

Few of us can escape the holiday season without feeling a bit worried, anxious, or stressed. The demands to perform perfectly and deliver exceptionally can be overwhelming.

What’s interesting is that according to Dr. Stephen Ruppenthal, the top five stress triggers are finances, health, family, weather, and loneliness.  All of these experiences are snowballed into the next  two months as we approach Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year.

Whether we realize it or not, stress not only complicates life, but it has a far greater effect on your health as well. Feeling stressed out instantly releases a cascade of hormones throughout the body. One of them being cortisol, which causes you to over eat and store excess energy as fat rather than expend it. Those same hormones also lower your immune response against disease.

For decades, stress management wasn’t part of most health practitioners toolkit because its effects were thought to be mostly psychological.  That’s beginning to change. Recent studies show that even negative emotions (like stress) are a precursor to cardiovascular dysfunction and disease. Are we writing our own prescription for poor health?


Stop Stress in its Tracks

When stress is at its peak, it can be difficult to stop and regroup. So what do you do? Lock the front doors and eat turkey in the dark?  Certainly not.

The best way to handle stressful situations is to prepare yourself in advance. There are plenty of resources that talk about ways to reduce stress but you can’t always say “no” to grandma and you can’t escape to meditate in the middle of a holiday dinner either. Perhaps the best way to manage holiday stress is to simply understand the temporary nature of it all.

Below are three practical ways you can pause and try to understand the circumstance – while keeping stress hormones in check.

1. Look Ahead into the Future

When you are overwhelmed  by the day look into the future. Three, six, nine months from now ask yourself will it really matter?

2. Take a Wider View

Are you seeing the entire picture? Try to not have a narrow mind when there is a room full of people with different backgrounds and stories. In a conversation that is polarizing try to understand each other rather than proving points.

3. Change Perspective

Walk into the next two months knowing the real meaning of the holidays. Be thankful for the small pleasures in life.  Celebrate generously by giving more of your time than your money. Appreciate the peace when you find it, even in the small moments.


Words of Wisdom

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” ― Thomas Merton

Tomas Merton said it perfectly. Lead with love this holiday season and try to see things from a larger, healthier perspective.

What ways have you found to manage the stressful season ahead? Feel free to share your success stories in keeping your health and relationships at their best this busy time of year by leaving a comment below.

Elderberry Syrup: Nature’s Cough Medicine

Temperatures are dropping fast around Grand Rapids this time of year. In the past, I would normally get anxious. Not because the holidays are approaching, but tis the season for colds and flu. I have a son who has asthma and even a small cold can begin to constrict his lungs. That leads to coughing and if left unchecked can send him to the emergency room with a full-blown asthma attack.

While a healthy diet goes a long way in building a strong immune system, it isn’t a bulletproof vest. I debated with myself for years if over-the-counter cough medicine and prescription drugs were the only solution to help our son through the colder months. I knew there were alternative answers out there but I didn’t know what they were.

Then I stumbled across Wellness Mama and she challenged me to think outside the box. Perhaps the medications we need are not at the pharmacy but in our backyards. Using plants and herbs as natural remedies was the answer I was looking for – enough with the steroid treatments and daily medications. I began a new journey making elderberry syrup for problems with asthma, colds, and flu.

Just this past month, my son’s entire preschool class came down with a terrible cold. When he woke up with a raspy cough I began giving him two teaspoons of elderberry syrup every two to four hours. In two days he bounced back! For the first time ever we avoided steroid treatment and a trip to the doctors.

elderberry syrup

Elderberries medicinal benefits are simply outstanding. The bioflavonoid in the berry juice destroys a viruses’ ability to infect a cell. People with the flu report less severe symptoms and speed up recovery when consuming elderberries while sick. The anthocyanins enhance the immune function by boosting the production of cytokines. What does that mean? These unique proteins send messages to the immune system to regulate an immune response by increasing antibodies to defend the body against the offending agent.

Local Honey

Local raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Honey strengths the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, and alleviates allergy and asthma symptoms. When the throat is irritated from raspy, dry coughing and the bronchial tubes are inflamed – honey soothes.

Elderberry Cough Syrup Recipe


  • ½ cup dried elderberries
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 cup raw honey


1. In a saucepan, combine elderberries and water. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Strain off the berries from the liquid then stir in the honey to create a thin syrup.

3. Bottle the elderberry syrup in glass mason jars with a lid. Refrigerate for up to three months.

Where to Find the Ingredients

If you live in the Grand Rapids Metro, check out one of Harvest Health’s locations or Elder and Sage for quality ingredients. Otherwise, Mountain Rose Herbs is a premium herbal company that supplies all these ingredients on-line.

Everyone is more susceptible to coming down with an illness this time of year. Why not make a batch of elderberry syrup ahead of time to be prepared? Who knows, it might just be the solution you’ve been waiting for.

Four Flavors of Fall

The Spring of 2012 made history here in West Michigan. We had five days in March with temperatures reaching 80 degrees or higher. While many of us didn’t complain and enjoyed the brief heat wave by getting a head start on the yard work, this type of weather was bad news for many farmers whose apple, cherry, peach trees began to blossom far too early. Typically, fruit trees in Michigan don’t blossom until early May. The warm March weather followed by a cold, frost-filled Spring resulted in the largest fruit crop loss since 1947 – from SouthWest Michigan all the way to Traverse City.

Fall is now upon us now and some of the most popular seasonal crops are in short supply. Many orchards are shipping in produce across the United States to make up for the loss, while others are picking what is left in their orchards and selling them as ‘pre-picked’. Apples, cherries, peaches and pears were perhaps the hardest hit, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enjoy them. There are still plenty of local farms and orchards with late-blossoming varieties hoping you’ll stop by this year to taste their Fall flavors.


west michigan apples


Believe it or not, Michigan is the third-largest apple producer in the U.S. after New York and Washington. Most of those are grown right here in West Michigan and are a local symbol that Fall has arrived. The Michigan apple crop loss this season is expected to have a 110 million dollar impact, but it’s not all bad news.

Many Macintosh, Gala, and HoneyCrisp trees survived the frost and are still producing fruit this year at many local orchards. These neighborhood farms would love to sell you pre-picked apples.
Sietsema Orchards and Cider Mill
8540 2 Mile Rd, Ada, MI 49301
Phone: 616-676-5584

Moelker Orchards Farm Market
9265 Kenowa Ave. SW Grand Rapids, MI 49544
Phone: 616-453-2585

Wells Orchards
0-8993 Kenowa Ave. S.W., Grand Rapids, MI 49534
Phone: 616-453-5919



Bright orange pumpkins are perhaps the most visible symbol of Fall-time festivities. Pick up a small pumpkin for baking and use the larger varieties to welcome Halloween guests to your porch.

Pumpkins and other winter squashes are plentiful and currently in season, so find a local patch and pick a few. Keep in mind pumpkins are considered a super food rich in carotenes that covert to vitamin A inside the body.
Klackle Orchards
11466 W Carson City Rd, Greenville, MI 48838
Phone: 616-754-8632

Ed Dunneback & Girls
3025 6 Mile Rd Grand, Rapids, MI 49544
Phone: 616-784-0058

Fruit Ridge Hayrides
11966 Fruit Ridge NW, Kent City, 49330
Phone: 616-887-5052



Apples may be the quintessential autumn fruit, but pears can be just as delicious. Pears ripen in throughout September and can help turn ordinary dishes into extraordinary ones. The bell-shaped fruit is a more delicate traveler, but don’t let that stop you from picking some up from your local fruit farmer.

The most popular variety, Bartlett pears, were hardest hit this Spring, others like Bosc are beginning to ripen and available from these two local orchards.
Moelker Orchards Farm Market
9265 Kenowa Ave. SW Grand Rapids, MI 49544
Phone: 616-453-2585

Wells Orchards
0-8993 Kenowa Ave. S.W., Grand Rapids, MI 49534
Phone: 616-453-5919


Most people think of raspberries as a summer-time treat, but everbearing types produce until the first frost. Why not visit a U-pick patch to stock up on raspberries and freeze them for the winter months?


Post Farms
9849 Myers Lake Avenue Ne, Rockford, MI 49341
Phone: 616-874-7569

Sandy Bottom Berries
11555 Sandy Bottom Road, Rockford, MI  49341
Phone: 616-225-9376

De Lange’s Redberry Farm
5723 Port Sheldon, Hudsonville, MI
Phone: 616-875-6026


Take some time in the next month to experience West Michigan by supporting our local farms and orchards. Remember to always call ahead of time for hours and to get a an update on what’s currently available.

Many of the orchards listed above also have family activities like hay rides and corn mazes. Even if you end up bringing home less fruit this season, take the time to enjoy the fresh air and wonderful Fall flavors.