Guilty Pleasure No Longer Guilty

Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Bark

I’m quite sure I am not alone in this confession of  intense love for any combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  I’m surprised I’m not grotesquely overweight by now but with the food I eat on a regular basis. But anywho, the treat shown above is a healthier version of the classic Reese’s Cup though I still advise against gorging, as tempting as that may sound. This is a lengthy process so make a lot and as always enjoy!

Ingredients

1 cup raw almonds

1/8 cup honey

Dash of sea salt

1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tbsp honey

1 bar of 70% dark chocolate

Directions

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan. Once melted, pour half the chocolate onto parchment paper, spreading it out into a 1/4-inch thick layer. It should as thin as the bar was before melting, which means it had enough thickness to hold its own when hardened.

Put the chocolate spread into the freezer. While the chocolate hardens, it’s time to roast the almonds. Spread the almonds over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.Massage 1/8 cup of honey and a dash of sea salt into the almonds until each one is evenly coated.

Spread the almonds so that each has its own place on the parchment paper. This will ensure equal roasting. Broil the almonds in the oven on medium (or low), keeping an eye. This process will only take under 5 minutes, so don’t go anywhere.

Keep an eye on the almonds and move them around with spatula so they wont burn. Once finished, they should golden brown. Along with 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 tablespoon of honey, food process the cooled almonds until the mixture sticks together. At first it will become mealy but will soon clump.

Form an almond “patty” with your hand, placing it on the frozen chocolate to cover its area, leaving about 1/2 – 1 inch width from the almond mixture to the edge of the frozen chocolate. Warm up the rest of the melted chocolate so that it spreads easily, topping the almond layer evenly, making sure to “seal” the edges so that the melted chocolate meets the frozen chocolate.

Pop back into the freezer until hardened – about 30 minutes.

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Try This: Vegan Piña Colada Smoothies

Vegan Piña Colada Smoothies

 Ingredients

1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks

1 cup coconut milk

1 large banana

1/2 ice cubes

Directions

Place pineapple chunks, banana, coconut milk and ice cubes in blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. Pour into two glasses.  You can garnish the top with pineapple or whip cream (vegan whip if desired) or drizzle with honey.

Unique Treat

Whole Grain, Honey Sweetened Raspberry Lemonade Bars

I’ve had just about every fruity bar you can think of but I’ve never tried a Raspberry Lemonade Bar!  Get ready to pucker your lips with this one. It’s delicious but extremely tart.  Want to know something even more amazing…? It’s healthy!

I noticed a few of you enjoyed the Cinnamon Cracker post and thought I’d add another healthy treat! Enjoy!

Ingredients

Whole Wheat Shortbread Crust

1/2 C softened, salted butter

1/2 C brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp sea salt

1 C + 2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour(from soft wheat)

Raspberry Lemon Filling

4 large eggs

1/4 C whole wheat pastry flour, or white whole wheat

1/2 C liquid honey

1 tbsp lemon zest

1/2 C freshly squeezed lemon juice

scant 1 C raspberry juice and pulp(from about 2-2 1/2 C frozen berries)

Directions 

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8×8 baking dish by spraying lightly with oil, or lining with parchment paper.  Set aside.  In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, beating for 4-5  minutes.

Add the vanilla, salt and 1/2 C flour.  Beat well before adding the rest of the flour.  Beat until completely combined(may still be crumbly).  Press into the prepared 8×8 pan and poke gently with a fork all over the dough.

If the dough is crumbly, gently press any broken pieces back into place.  Bake shortbread 17-18 minutes until barely golden around the edges.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little while preparing the filling.

Thaw the raspberries and puree in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender.  Pour and press through a small sieve with a spoon to remove most, if not all, of the seeds.  Measure the puree, 1 C or just under is perfect.  Set aside till ready to use.

In a large bowl, place the eggs and the grain flour.  Whisk together until no lumps remain.  Measure out and add the honey(warm the honey just slightly if it’s solid).  Add the lemon zest and the freshly squeezed juice.

Whisk together until the honey combines with the lemon juice and eggs.  Add in the raspberry puree and whisk together.

Pour the mixture over the crust while it’s still warm and place back in the 350 degree oven.  Bake 28-30 minutes until the filling is set(the very center may still wiggle a little but will set completely as it cools).

Remove from the oven and cool completely and chill in the fridge before cutting into 16 squares and serving with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Roaming in Romania

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Bucharest

Since my bout in Egypt I have yet to update you on my journey. I hope you enjoyed the Shortbread story. It came to mind on the train ride to Romania. I’ve just left Bucharest for Bistrița, a city near the Carpathian Mountains.  When my mum left him, my father had a meltdown and a midlife crisis at the same time. I was 13 at the time.

Out of nowhere he up and left, forcing me to go to live with my two aunts who wanted nothing to do with me and sent me to boarding school. I received letters from my father the two years I was there telling me of his adventures in Romania of all places. It was in Bistrița, in an “obscure patch of woods” (his words not mine), that he met the gypsy, or Roma as they prefer to be called, that would soon become my mother and law.

When he returned, he had a beautiful Roma girl clinging to his hips and a baby girl nestled in his arms. I will tell more of this later I promise, but I must not get sidetracked. For now, know she was the one who ignited my taste buds and created my insatiable palate with her exotic, most delightful dishes.

To my extreme dismay she refuses to tell me how she makes anything. So, I figured if I can find her village I’d simply ask her people. Simple enough right? But I must leave you now, the bus I am on has gone as far as it can go and I must transfer to another bus.  I’ll get back to you soon! Enjoy the photos!

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Carpathian Mountains

Don’t Call Them Nuts!

Macadamia Testicle Shortbread

A few years ago, during a road trip across the States, I had the pleasure of staying with an older woman by the name of Henrietta Jolie.

The old clunker I’d bought to make my way across country stalled on me halfway through the middle of nowhere Oklahoma.  I waited for hours for another living soul to pass by but I had no such luck.

So, I ended up having to walk miles and miles in search of a gas station or at least something that resembled civilization! Nearly two hours later I saw in the distance, across a grassy plain and tucked between some trees, a small white cottage.

I nearly jumped out of my boots running towards the haven.  A young man tending the garden greeted me in the front of the house after getting over the shock of my appearance.

When I’d caught my breath, I relayed to him my ordeal.  A hearty laugh ensued followed by a reassuring pat. The young man (Lucas was his name), told me he knew a “thing or two” about fixing cars.

During our conversation, a plump old woman walked out of the house asking where the fresh eggs were. Lucas answered and quickly told the woman my situation.

Her meaty chin disappeared into her neck as she smiled and ushered me inside to “sit a spell and have a bite to eat,” while she called a tow truck. I wasn’t sure how long a “spell” was so I found myself constantly getting up, then sitting back down only moments later.

During one of these leg exercises, Mrs. Jolie ( as I later learned), came from the  kitchen carrying a plate with a sandwich on it and another plate filled with looked like square cookies.  My stomach churned and I feigned refusal, for politeness sake, but quickly accepted after her second offer.

The desert was actually shortbread. After the first bite, I begged to know the name and how to make it. She laughed a little and turned to look out the window behind me.

Her eyes glazed over as her memory swam backwards.  I knew that look…it was a look I was growing accustomed to.  It meant “I have a story.”

She told me that when her son, Lucas, was a little boy he had very strict school teacher who was “particular” about words.  Every morning Lucas would come home and tell her the new word he’d learned.

“It’s not called a lie mamma, Mrs. Ellis say’s to call it a fib.” “You shouldn’t say nasty mamma, it’s distasteful.”  So on and so forth this went for weeks.  Then one day, Lucas came home walking funny and complaining about his “testicles” hurting.

“Where in the world did you learn that word boy?” Mrs. Jolie had asked Lucas.  Lucas told her that during recess, one of the boys had kicked a ball and hit his “nuts.”

He went over to Mrs. Ellis crying saying his nuts hurt and Mrs. Ellis turned beet red and angrily told him never to say the word “nuts again.”

Mrs. Jolie gave her son some ice to help with the pain, and started cooking dinner forgetting the ordeal.  That night at the table, with whole family present and few friends from the neighborhood, Mrs. Jolie brought out her new shortbread recipe.

Filled with Macadamia nuts and topped with whipped cream, the shortbread looked delicious. When Lucas took his first bite he happily exclaimed, “I love Testicles!”

At this point in the story, Mrs. Jolie could no longer keep her composure and laughed loudly me along with her.  The proper name of this desert was Macadamia Nut Shortbread but the family called it Macadamia Testicle Shortbread.

For months poor Lucas substituted the word “testicle” for “nuts.” It’s strange how often we use that word.

She gave me the recipe shortly after the story and when the tow truck finally arrived with my car I found out the reason my car had stopped was because it ran out of gas…I’m a testicle…

 Ingredients

1 1/2 cups salted dry-roasted macadamia nuts

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Place macadamia nuts in a 4-sided sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven, but keep the oven on. Allow the nuts to cool slightly and then coarsely chop.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt until combined well. Stir in flour, nuts, and chocolate and gently stir with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a sheet of parchment paper. Gently pat the dough into a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Score into 20 squares with tip of a knife. Bake until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes, then carefully cut into squares with a sharp knife while the shortbread is still warm (cookies may crumble a little bit). Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Simple Healthy Snack

Raw Cinnamon and Apple Crackers

Thought it’d be nice to post somthing healthy for a change!

Ingredients

1 cup Flax seeds

1 cup Pumpkin seeds

1 cup Dates, into a date paste.

Pitted and soaked for 5 min.

1/4 Water for the date paste.

1.5 cup Apple juice

2 small pinches of Himalayan salt

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1-2 tablespoons Mesquite

Directions

Pit and soak the Dates. Grind a flour of the Flax seeds and Pumpkin seeds in a coffee grinder or blender. Transfer to a large bowl. Using a veggie juicer, make the Apple juice by processing apples until you have 1.5 cups. Alternatively you can use commercial apple juice. Pour the juice in the bowl and stir.

Make a date paste by processing the Dates with 1/4 cups Water in a food processor. Add the date paste with the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and stir by hand until you have a dough. Spread the dough on top of a teflex sheet on top of a mesh dehydrator screen. Form a large square with a spatula evenly, about 0.2 inch (0.5 cm) thick.

Draw a grid with a knife and dry for 2-3 (105 F) before you peel off the teflex sheet. The easiest way to do that, is to flip the entire screen, and then pull the sheet carefully from one corner, so that the bottom side of the crackers facing up. Now you can continue to dehydrate them depending on how dry or leather like you want the crackers.

(They will still be leather like after 8 h in the dehydrator.) Don’t store the crackers in the fridge, as they soften and be floppy. Store them in an airtight container in room temperature.

Try This: Hot Chocolate with Mint and Marshmellows

Hot Chocolate with Mint and Marshmellows

 Is that a leaf in my chocolate?!  Yes it is! It’s a mint leaf to be exact. While browsing the web and old cookbooks I came across this and had to try it!  I know it’s just hot chocolate and can be bought at Starbucks during the Holidays, but just look at that picture?  Is it not breathtaking?  I hope to become as good one day so I stop stealing pictures.  But anyway I urge you lovers of warm chocolate to try this.

Theres something special about making food and beverages from scratch.  I’m sure wine tastes much better after you’ve squashed grapes for hours with your bare feet! The same is true for this!  The chocolate is so thick and rich it’s fantastic! Please don’t take my word for it!

 Ingrediants

1 cup cream

1/2 cup milk

5 sprigs fresh mint

pinch of salt

1 & 1/2 cups chopped dark chocolate (70%)

Directions

In a small pot boil the milk and cream. Add the mint and put aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile chop the chocolate and put it into a medium bowl. Gently bruise the mint in the cream mixture to release some of the essential oils.

Add salt to the cream mixture and bring back up to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove the mint.

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for one minute. Whisk the cream and the chocolate together so you will get ganache.

Ganache can be refrigerated for about 2 weeks. When in the mood for more simply put 2 tbsp of ganach into the cup and pour in a hot milk.