Raw Dark Chocolate Truffles

Candy. Meh. That’s kid stuff.

We have Reese’s Cups for trick-or-treaters, and we’re keeping these for ourselves:

That’s right friends: amazeballs. These little globes are dead on truffle consistency. They are rich and dark in very grown up way. Make ahead of time and serve to an unsuspecting husband. He’ll ever guess these sneaky truffles are loaded with protein, sweetened the natural way and–GASP–contain a vegetable. (Sorry Vore!)

Raw Dark Chocolate Truffles

10 pitted dates

1/4 cup vanilla flavored brown rice protein powder

3 Tablespoons canned pumpkin

2 Tablespoons coco powder

dash of salt

1 Tablespoon molasses

1 1/2 Tablespoons walnut pieces

2 Tablespoons finely shredded unsweetened coconut

*Add the dates to a food processor. Process until they are broken into small, crumbly pieces.

*Add the protein powder, pumpkin, coco, salt and molasses. Blend the heck out of it.

*Pulse in the walnuts.

*Form the dough into 12 equally sized balls. The dough will be a little crumbly, but should hold together easily when you roll it.

*Roll the balls in the coconut. Enjoy!

The flavor here is rich, but you certainly could sweeten your recipe up just a bit. Honey, agave nectar or maple syrup would do the trick. I wouldn’t add in more than a 1/2 tablespoon, unless you want a sticky mess!

What’s your “adult” treat this Halloween?

Behold, the Power of Vodka.

Mom, if you’re listening, EAR MUFFS. I am, and always have been, an angelic child.

Now then…What was I saying? Oh yes: VODKA. In college, vodka was my drink of choice. I favored the cheap kind mixed with delicacies like gas station lemonade and Sprite. Mmmmmmm. Fancy! These days, I rarely drink the stuff, but I do have a stash of it.

Perhaps that’s why this article from EcoSalon caught my attention. You mean I can employ that vodka for something other than drinking? Don’t mind if I do! Here are three ways I’ve been using spirits these days:

Jewelry Cleaner: 100 years ago, I worked in the jewelry department at Saks. I learned that Dawn and a soft toothbrush are a diamond’s best friend. (Or any stone…Or any grimy piece of jewelry for that matter!) But a pre-soak in vodka? Turns out, that gets all the yucky stuff loose and ready to brush right off. It’s genius. Vodka is a fabulous cleaner.

Clothing Deodorizer: Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this. Don’t judge me. But good gosh my workout clothes stink! Sometimes the washer doesn’t get all the funk out. I had been using a Febreeze laundry treatment, but then got a little wigged out by its not-so-natural-ness in proximity to my skin. According to EcoSalon, “Vodka has anti-bacterial properties that get rid of the smell, surprisingly without leaving any vestiges of vodka aroma behind.” I mixed vodka and water in a little spray bottle and went to town. Dude: It works!

Light Pie Crust: Oh, Cooking Light. You’re my go to. [Random side note: The dish in this picture came from the Cooking Light Foodie Garage Sale a few weeks ago in Birmingham. Love!] When they teased me with the knowledge that vodka adds moisture to crust without the need for added fat, I was game to try. It’s fabulously flakey! And bonus: The alcohol bakes off in the oven. The folks at the Baptist Bake Sale will never know booze was there!

How do you use vodka, other than for sipping?  

Black Magic Bars.

Tis the season for all things dark and scary. Voodoo, ghosts, graveyards, etc., etc. In the midst of all this spooky talk, I have a confession:

I don’t like Halloween. 

There. I said it. I should qualify that statement by saying that I adore costumes and any excuse for a party. But I have zero interest in skeletons, bats or anything that jumps out and spooks me. Vore tried to turn a scary movie on last night and I squashed that plan in a hurry. Why would I choose to be frightened? Insanity!

The food aspect of Halloween? Now that is something I can get behind! I’m not the world’s largest candy eater, but I ❤ a baked good.

In the spirit of my least favorite holiday, I made a little hocus-pocus in the kitchen using the ultimate Halloween ingredient: pumpkin! I loaded these protein bars down with nutrient dense fruits, grains and even a little black magic. (That’s my code word for molasses!)

According to my calculations, these bars are about 155 calories, 7.5 grams of good fat and 9 grams of protein. The sugar is in check at a meager 8 grams. The bars are moist, spicy and delicious. If you like a sweeter bar, add in a tablespoon or two of brown sugar or stevia. Happy haunting!

Black Magic Bars

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup vanilla flavored brown rice protein powder

1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (I use this.)

1/4 cup flax meal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon arrowroot starch

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

8 dried figs, stems removed

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon coconut butter

3 tablespoons black strap molasses

2 eggs

1/4 cup finely diced walnuts

This is a “dump it in the food processor” kind of recipe. Ready? Here we go:

 

*Add the oats to a food processor and pulse for a few seconds, until the oats are getting close to a flour, but still a little chunky.

 

 

 

*Add the protein powder, coconut, flax, baking powder, arrowroot and pumpkin pie spice. Pulse two or three times to combine.

 

 

*Add the remaining ingredients and process until everything is well combined and the figs are down to little chunks. Stir in the walnuts by hand.

 

 

 

*Add the batter to a 8 count mini-loaf pan.(I think an 8×8 pan would work.) Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Allow them to cool in the pan, then enjoy! Store leftovers in the fridge.

Vibrant Chili to Feed a Crowd.

In the South, we love with food. Someone passes? You’re getting a casserole. Husband had surgery? Brownies will make it better. And if you have a baby, we’re bringing dinner.

Fortunately, this time around we are celebrating a baby! A sweet friend, who was first a sorority sister and is now in my Sunday School class, had a gorgeous little girl. Last Saturday was my turn to bring supper and love on the baby. (Oh…and to check on Mom.)

But what to make? Fall-ish Saturdays bring on yet another Southern tradition: FOOTBALL! Football and chili go hand-in-hand. You see where this is going. The new parents were destined for a bowl of chili and a pone of cornbread. I made a huge pot and split it between our families. YUM!

Now let’s chat about this chili recipe. It brings out a few of my secret weapons. I’m a threat to cook with beer and bouillon. And Smoked Paprika…we meet again! This chili is mild (so as to accommodate little ones) but I often add a diced chipotle chili in adobo sauce to turn up the heat a bit. Vore douses his in hot wing sauce. Sigh.

Throw a pot of chili on before the game and simmer until half time. Top with sour cream, shredded cheese and green onions if you’re so inclined, then savor every fall-tasting bite.

Vibrant Chili to Feed a Crowd

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)

1 large green bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)

1 large red bell pepper, chopped (1 cup)

1 cup chopped carrots

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 12 oz beer

3 cups water

1 10.5 gram bouillon cube (I use this)

28 oz can petite diced tomatoes, undrained

9 cups of your favorite beans (6 cans, if you go that direction) I used equal parts garbanzo, black and kidney

2 bay leaves

*Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.

*Add onions and peppers. Sautee until onions are translucent and peppers are tender, about 6 minutes.

*Add in carrots and garlic. Sautee about 2 minutes more.

*Now add in your spices: chili, cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Stir until all the veggies have a nice spice coating.

*Dump time! Add in the beer, water, tomatoes, beans and bouillon cube.

*Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the bay leaves and let the pot bubble away for at least an hour, but preferably two. The longer it simmers, the better it tastes!

You can sauté turkey meat or ground beef and mix it in for the carnivores if you like. Believe it or not, Vore likes his veggie style. Go figure.

Do you have a go-to chili recipe? And what are your favorite toppings? 

Beyond Birdseed: Apple Cider Millet with Fried Sage.

When I think of fall flavors, a few things come to mind: apples, pumpkin, sage and cider.

As a little crisp has entered the air, I’ve felt the urge to reconnect with those flavors. So why not throw them all into one yummy dish?

I decided to use millet as my vessel. We’ve talked before about the hard knocks Ms. Millet endures. She’s often relegated to bird food! But I’m convinced millet has much more to offer. It’s got a pleasant, flavorful chew and–for the vegetarians who look for these sorts of things–millet is a good source of iron, calcium and B-vitamins. Boom!

This salad is vegan, whole grain and loaded down with the essence of fall. Serve it hot or serve it cold. It can be a side dish (Vore’s was eaten with pork tenderloin) or a main. Are you ready? Let’s have some fall fun…

Apple Cider Millet with Fried Sage!

Fried Sage

1/4 cup olive oil

12 large sage leaves

*Heat the oil in an 8-in skillet over medium high until small bubbles form.

*Add sage leaves and fry until crispy, turning once.

*Transfer sage leaves to a paper towel to drain. Reserve the remaining oil.

For the vinaigrette

1/4 cup apple cider or sparkling apple cider

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 (2 ounce) shallot, minced

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Reserved 1/4 cup sage infused oil

Whisk all ingredients except the oil. Once they are combined, pour the oil into the vinegar mixture in a slow steady stream, whisking all the while. Ta-da! Salad dressing.

For the Millet

1 cup dry millet

2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup crisp red apple, cut into bite size pieces

1 tablespoon lemon juice

12 fried sage leaves, crumbled

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted

*Add millet to a medium sauce pan and heat over medium high. Lightly toast.

*Pour in water and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until all the water has absorbed.

*Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

*Toss the chopped apple in lemon juice.

*Mix the vinaigrette, sage, pumpkin seeds and apple into the cooked millet.

Oven-Baked Salt & Vinegar Veggie Chips

Once again this week, my work neighbor came to visit with organic turnips to share. She even delivered them in an adorable muslin bag. Happy day! I love turnips.

Back at home, I added three small beets to the bag. But how to employ them? I wanted to do something different. A riff on salt and vinegar chips perhaps? I pulled out the mandolin and went to work. Aren’t beets just gorgeous?

A toss in oil, salt and vinegar coupled with a slow bake in the oven and look what you get:

Here’s how to make your own:

Oven-Baked Salt and Vinegar Veggie Chips

10-12 ounces turnips, beets or a combination of the two

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Choose root veggies of a similar diameter, so they cook evenly.

*Trim the tops and bottoms from the veggies with a knife. I didn’t bother with peeling mine.

*If you have a mandolin, slide your turnips/beets across to form thin chips. If not, a food processor works too!

*Add oil, salt and vinegar to a large zip top bag. Mix in your veggies and shake.                 {If you are using beets, I’d highly suggest keeping them separate and shaking them second. The red gets EVERYWHERE and will stain your other chips.}

*Spread your slices evenly on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. This may take two cookie sheets. Don’t stress. That’s more chips for you.

*Add to the oven and check after 20 minutes. Are they crunchy yet? If not, continue baking. My turnips took about 25 minutes and the beets about 35.

These little guys super popable and make a lovely garnish. I enjoyed mine on top of a fine salad. What’s your favorite veggie chip? 

 

How Girls’ Weekend Led to the “Oven Boiled Egg” Experiment

Last weekend I went to the Alabama Gulf Coast with 7 dear friends from high school days. Here we are poolside in our orange and blue, prepping to watch Auburn football:

We went to a private school that only had about 100 students per grade, so it’s a big deal to get 8 of us in one place at one time. It’s pretty awesome to hang out with people who knew you well at age 12! I had hurricane bangs…

Our weekend was a total flashback: There was hair braiding and a makeup tutorial. We ate cookies, watched movies and talked about boys.

*It should be noted that the “boys” are now husbands and one friend was using a breast pump during the chat. But I digress.

One of my favorite things about the girls’ weekend was all the tips we passed back and forth. I learned new tricks for Instagram, put a book on my reading list and discovered a website for collages. Did you know there are candy corn M&Ms? After eating them, we all got a few workout tips from Suzanne, co-owner of Homewood FIT. (Above, she’s sitting next to me in the navy stripes. Hi Suz!)

Suzanne also shared a method for oven “hardboiled eggs” that I was itching to try when I got back home. The instructions are simple:

  • Add eggs to muffin cups to keep them from rolling around.
  • Cook in a pre-heated oven at 325 for 25-30 minutes.

How can you mess that up? Here goes nothing…

I added a step: Plunge in a ice bath afterwards to stop the cooking. The result:

Not bad! This was try #1, so of course I will make a few adjustments. These have just a smidge of grey around the edge of the yolks, meaning they cooked a little too long. I think 26 minutes will be my perfect time. This might be my new go-to for easy eggs.

Have you ever cooked “boiled eggs” in the oven?

The most important (manly) meal of the day.

I’ve started a bad pattern in our marriage. Let me explain.

I am an annoying, perky morning person. Vore is not. Perhaps related is the fact that he’s never been a huge breakfast eater. Before we married, his weekday standard was a Greek yogurt eaten at his desk, which often left him hungry mid-morning.

You know I wasn’t having that.

I am usually up first in the morning. I work until I hear the shower click on, then I take a few minutes to put a decent breakfast together for my man.

I send him out the door with a kiss and a cup of coffee. June Cleaver? I’d like to think so. He eats whatever I made while he sits in traffic. Care to see a sampling of a week?

Weekends are more leisurely, but you can see that weekday meals are infinitely portable.

Sunday: Pancakes, strawberries and bacon (@home)

Monday: Ezekiel muffin, almond butter, banana and honey

Tuesday: Biscuit with chicken and cheese, honey crisp

Wednesday: Egg and pancetta sandwich, raspberries

Thursday: Egg and cheese quesadilla, figs

Friday: Oatmeal muffin with cheese, banana

Saturday:Vore’s favorite weekend oats (@home)

Did the smiley face get you? Those are blueberries, removed prior to eating. I’m hilarious.

Beyond the meals you see above, I’ve also been known to pull out pita pockets and smoothies. I often use leftovers from the night before, like the biscuit I made to go with Monday supper. The kicker? Not one of these meals took more than 15 minutes to prep. And they’ve got a lot more staying power than a 100 calorie Greek yogurt.

Yes, I know making a hot breakfast will be harder when we have kids. But right now, it’s a small thing I love doing to make my man’s commute more pleasant. It’s a bonus that his stomach isn’t grumbling an hour after he eats.

Who preps breakfast in your family? What’s your favorite quick/portable meal?