January 15, 2017

Whole 30 Chocolate Caramels

So, despite eating 5 delicious cookies today, we're still mostly doing Whole 30 for a while. Had you told me the first day of November that this recipe for "caramels" would be delicious, I would have wrinkled my nose at you. After a full series of Whole 30 and then another 10 days on it in January, these were delicious. They're like Larabars, except this version has chocolate. For truly Whole 30, you'd need to omit the vanilla paste or extract. Here's the adaptation I did from Heart Beet Kitchen's version.

Whole 30 Chocolate Caramels
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. pecans
1 cup lightly packed pitted dates (about 184 grams)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 Tbsp. unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 tsp. melted coconut oil
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In a food processor, puree pecans for 1 minute, until they are broken down and start to release their oils. Then add dates and coconut. Puree for another minute, scraping down halfway in between, until the mixture is relatively smooth. Then add remaining ingredients, and puree until mostly smooth and sticky.

Pat into parchment lined small pan. Smooth down and press firmly, with additional parchment paper on top, so your hands don't stick. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour. Remove, and lift parchment out of pan, loosing edges with knife if needed, and cut into small squares. Makes 16 squares.

January 8, 2017

Mexican Sliders

Given how much better I felt about myself ... and how I felt ... with Whole 30, we're attempting to mostly follow that eating routine for a while. Although it might seem odd, I do really well with an all or nothing approach to things like sugar. I'm the person who, if I eat a cookie (or two or three) for breakfast then figures that ice cream might as well be on the docket for lunch. As much as I love sweets like ice cream and cupcakes and all the crazy delicious things I bake, I know that my body functions better without all that sugar. And I know eliminating as much sugar and processed crap as realistically possible is all the better for us, especially in the long view of our health.

That being said, I know this likely won't last forever, and there will still be plenty of sweets to grace my kitchen. Perhaps, though, I won't eat all of every batch and will remember that my mother taught me to share.

In the meantime, this recipe I adapted from Meals Made Simple will now be part of our regular rotation. These are easy to throw together for a quick meal and full of flavor. The original recipe called for making full-size burgers. I still struggle with eating a burger without a bun, so I opted for sliders wrapped in lettuce. It's different enough that it doesn't feel weird. It feels rather delicious with a big dollop of guacamole.

Mexican Sliders
2 lbs. ground beef
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. granulated garlic
2 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Combine all the seasonings together. Mix into the ground beef. Form into sliders (approximately 16-18). Grill (or pan fry), flipping at least once, until cooked. Serve in lettuce leaves with all desired toppings.

Notes: I plan to make a larger batch of the seasonings to have on hand, so it will take next to no time to mix things together after work. My 5-year-old ate these without complaints ... with ketchup, of course, and no lettuce.

January 4, 2017

Connecting Christmas Lights

I saw the post from Semi-Sweet Designs about these connecting Christmas lights when I was in Chicago the night before flying to the Virgin Islands for vacation. Even though I only had one week between me and Christmas after my blissful vacation, I knew I wanted to attempt these cookies. They were too simple and too cute not to try.

I imagine these would be easier with a square cutter, but I did my best to measure and cut straight(ish) squares. I had some issues with my yellow and blue icing not setting, but I'm glad I made these little guys. I definitely want to repeat these for next year because they were fun, relatively easy and look fairly impressive.

Check out the tutorial I linked to above to see Mike's expert advice on how to make these cuties.

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole

This recipe from Brown Eyed Baker was a tremendous hit with my family this past Christmas. It was the right mix of sausage, eggs and hashbrowns for a new favorite savory breakfast casserole. The best part? It cooks in a slow cooker overnight and is ready to be devoured first thing in the morning!

This will be a repeat for my family. Super easy and delicious!

Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
32 oz. frozen shredded hashbrowns
16 oz. breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled
6 green onions, finely chopped
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
12 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Additional salt and pepper to season the hash brown layers
Grease the insert of a 6-quart slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Layer 1/3 of the hashbrowns on the bottom, then season with salt and pepper. Top with 1/3 of the cooked sausage, then 1/3 each of the green onions and cheddar cheese. Repeat the layers two more times, ending with the cheese.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the top of the hash brown, sausage and cheese layers in the slow cooker. (My slow cooker looked full before I added the eggs, but they seeped into the other ingredients, and everything fit perfectly.)

Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours (the edges will brown). Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, if there are any. Serves 8ish.

December 7, 2016

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

Even though I leave in a few days for a week away with my husband in the Virgin Islands (without kids!!!), I'm still busy tackling projects I really don't need to do but think they'd be fun anyways. That includes this recipe from Dessert. Design. Life. for hot chocolate on a spoon. The boys are giving their teachers mugs with cocoa, so it should be homemade cocoa, right? And it should come with a quilted homemade snowman mug rug, too, right? I was just making the mug rugs for each boy's teacher, but then AJ informed me it wouldn't be fun to just give his teacher's aide a mug with cocoa. So now I'm trying to finish up a couple more mug rugs, so AJ has "fun" gifts to give apparently.

Anyways, these were easy to put together, and so far my boys have enjoyed the 3 misfits that cracked when I removed them from the ice cube trays.

Hot Chocolate on a Stick
16 oz. chocolate, chopped (not chocolate chips)
1/3 cup cocoa (40 g.)
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar (110 g.)
1/8 tsp. salt
Dash cinnamon

Melt chocolate on half power in the microwave, stirring every 30 to 60 seconds until smooth. Add cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt and cinnamon to the chocolate. eKep mixing until combined.

Spoon chocolate into ice cube trays, and tap several times to level and fill any gaps. Let set somewhat, and then insert stick. Allow to firm on counter top several hours or in refrigerator for 30-45 minutes. Unmold. Makes 16 hot chocolates.

To make hot chocolate, stir a spoon into 6-8 oz of hot milk (or milk mixed with half & half) until melted.