Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups that are… Buttons!

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Hello friends!

See the above little buttons of deliciousness? So much yumminess in such a little, er.. button.

Why are they called Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, then?

I’m glad you asked.

It’s because they should (if you are a stickler for rules and such) look like these..

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These pretty cupcake size treats were made by Mercy Campbell, who originally found them over at Prevention, a blog by a clever lady named Nicole. Who also made them cupcake size.

But here’s the thing – those treats looked sooooo goood. AND they contain two of my  favourite foods in the world in one place (that would be chocolate and peanut butter) and.. I had no paper patty pans that size.  And small is cute, right?

Without further excuses ado, here’s how to make them.

Bottom Layer:
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted if it’s cold in your neck of the woods
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 packets stevia or 2 teaspoons of Natvia

Top Layer:
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup natural smooth peanut butter
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 packet stevia or 1 teaspoon Natvia

Directions:

Put all the bottom layer ingredients in a bowl, and stir.

Put all the top layer ingredients in a separate bowl, and stir. (Complex, yes? :D)

Here you can choose how dedicated you want to be*.  If you want a pretty, defined line between your two layers, fill your patty pans or chocolate moulds with the bottom layer of mix, and freeze.  Wait for it to harden, and add the top layer. Refreeze.

You eat these goodies straight from the freezer, and if there any left (ahem!) you store them in the freezer, else your coconuty peanutbuttery chocolatey treats will melt back to their original gooey state.

Freeze.. Enjoy!

*It’s peanut butter and chocolate.  No way was I waiting an extra 15 mins.  I half filled each chocolate mould with the base mix, then immediately added the top layer.

Friends, these are yummy.  AND good for you, and quick to make!

Chocolate: not just for breakfast anymore!

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Yes, Bloggy friends, it’s a chocolate so good for you, that you can eat it regularly, and guilt free.

You can!  Honest! 😀

I have to thank my Mama ♥ for this new addiction recipe: she is a great experimenter!

Now.. before we go any further, I must preface this with saying I am a heavy Lindt dark chocolate user.  If you’re a milk chocolate fan, you may want to try some of the tamer recipes out there using condensed milk to sweeten.  Or you could play around with this one and add more sweetener than I have.

I regularly use coconut oil and am happy with that taste, but if you and coconut oil are not well acquainted, try it with mostly butter first.  It won’t be as good for you (don’t get me raving on the benefits of coconut oil!) but you can build up to it.

Here’s the list of so-spanking-good-for-you ingredients that even your weirdest, most alternate, sugar hatin’ , barley green eatin’, homeschooling friends won’t grimace at.

Ready? 😀

3/4 cup honey ( I use raw.. because it’s good for you! But any honey with a mild taste will do.)

stevia to taste (it’s not necessary: you can add more honey, but stevia adds a big punch of sweetness with zero calories.  AND it contains nothing artificial. It’s a herb. 🙂 )

125 grams butter

1/2 cup coconut oil (now remember… if you don’t normally use it, add a couple of tablespoons, and make the rest of the measurement up with extra butter.)

1/2 cup cacao powder  (you can use more if you want a more chocolately taste, and this friends, is the beauty of this recipe: the amount of times you have to taste test it while making.  Glory!)

Almond meal. I used 125 grams, but you could add more.  It gives the mixture body, and almonds are yummy.

Mix the whole lot together.  There is no need to warm it, even, if room temperature has your coconut oil runny and your butter soft.  If it’s cold, or you are impatient, then warm in a double boiler enough that you can blend the ingredients.  It doesn’t need to cook in any way, it’s only necessary  to make the ingredients blend.

And now for the fun part…  (um… that would be more taste testing! 😛 )

Here you add whatever grabs your fancy.  I *adore* peanut butter.  So, if I have it on hand, I add great wads of peanut butter to the mix.  Oh, but not that stuff you buy in the supermarket that has no taste.  If you go to the health food shop (unless you are a REAL die-hard homeschooler and have your own super juicer that makes nut butters..  or you can just go to the health food shop as I do) they will grind it fresh while you wait, to the texture you specify.

Toasted, flaked almonds tossed in at the end are great, too.

What is truly, ruly, delectable if you have no peanut butter, is throwing a large handful of macadamias into your food processor and adding those along with macadamia halves, to your glorious, chocolately, experiment.  Then…taste, of course! You know, just to make sure there isn’t something else it needs…

You could try shredded coconut, dried fruit, any kind of nuts you fancy.

When you’re all done, pour it into a greased tray or Pyrex dish to set in the fridge.  The texture will depend on what your ingredient choices were, and it will come out more like a fudge than a hard commercial chocolate.  If it is not perfect for you, if it needs more sweetening, or less sweetening, or to have more texture, melt it down in a double boiler (or a bowl over hot water) until it is liquid again, and adjust!

Friends, experiment with me! 😀

Serious Yum (or, Why Duck Fat Should Rival Gold in Price Per Pound)

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Hello Bloggy friends,

 

I’m going to show you how to cook a duck.  But more importantly, I’m going to share why you should cook a duck. 😀

 

Ready for the serious, honest to goodness reason you should cook duck?  Despite it being fiddly, and apart from it being actually quite delicious?

 

(drumroll please… )

 

Duck fat.

 

Yes!  Duck fat.  Forget about nasty connotations the word “fat” has in health circles:  if this stuff clogs your arteries, it’s worth it. 😛

 

Here we go:

 

 

Buy a duck.  This one came with all the innards removed (which may  disappoint if you hanker after duck liver pâté, but .. I don’t.)

 

Rinse under water and pat dry with paper towel. So far it’s pretty simple, and just like cooking chicken.  But wait – it gets fiddly about now.

 

 

Tie the legs as you would with any large fowl, and tuck the wings under in that pretending to be a policeman apprehending a baddie style.  You know the sort of fold I mean?  You swivel the wings and tuck them under the bird so they don’t burn.  Pop your duck on a rack.

Then take a sharp knife, and carefully, OH so carefully, score the skin and fat of the duck in a diamond pattern.  The “careful” bit is all about not cutting through to the meat.  You don’t want a dry, old duck, and if you puncture the meat, that’s what will happen.  Yet, you do want to give the duck fat every opportunity to run out, and the skin to crisp.  So slice as deeply as you dare, but desist before striking the flesh.

Here’s a little more of the fiddly: the duck needs to cook for longer than a chicken to allow it time to drain away almost all the fat.  What’s more, you have to flip that bird every thirty minutes, and poke and prod it at each turn.  Most of the recipes I looked at state that ducks take up to three hours in the oven.  I imagine there wouldn’t have been much of mine left to speak of if I’d done that, and it took closer to 1 hour 45 mins in total cooking time, though with the fiddling with flipping and such, the procedure took close to three and a half hours from start to finish.

 

Here’s a pic at the first flip.  Take a pointy knife, or a sharp toothpick, and prick the skin between your scoring.  This allows the release of even more of the duck fat.  Then flip the bird over, and put her back in the oven.

If roasting in a shallow dish, you may want to collect the fat at each flip, so reducing the risk of a spill (and a burn!) by trying to collect it all at the end from a loaded dish.

Here’s the second flip stage – not. looking. so. yummy.  But it gets prettier. 😉

Again, prod that bird. Collect the fat.

 

At this stage, if you want to glaze your duck, gather:

1/4 cup honey
1/4 molasses
3 Tbls. orange juice
1 Tbls. soy sauce

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer.  Stir continuously until it becomes thick and syrupy.  You know this promises something good.

When your duck is pretty much cooked and no more fat is falling, drain all the fat from the pan and reserve.  Brush with glaze.

You’re almost there.  Pop her back in the oven for just 15 mins, then it’s rest for 15 mins (for both of you!), then… carve!  Seriously, by the time you’ve finished botherating with that duck, you will barely be interested in eating it. It’s good, yes, it does taste fine, but I doubt not that it is more fun for everyone else to eat, because after all that fussing, I’m cross at the duck.

 

Forgiveness, however, comes in the form of .. duck fat.  😀

 

Pre-heat your pan for roast veggies.  Toss in some duck fat, and it smells glorious from the moment it makes contact.  Want to see?

 

It’s not just that they are golden and crunchy.  It’s not just the soft creamy centres.  It’s the flavour.  Schmack!  I forgive the duck!  The potatoes are worth the duck.

And that’s it, bloggy friends.  How to blow hours of your precious reading time cooking, to get glorious potatoes.  Or of course you can purchase a tub of duck fat from IGA.  (But where’s the adventure in that?  😉  )

 

 

 

 

 

Eat Your Greens (and Ice-cream)

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Hello bloggy friends,

I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen.  Want to see? 😀

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Dip is an easy way to eat a lot of raw  vegetables.  And while creamy dips have their place, I prefer mine fresh and clean tasting.
So… here it is:

Baby Spinach and Cashew dip.

 

Wash and dry 180 grams of baby spinach (that convenient amount is the weight of a bag of baby spinach you can purchase in the fresh produce section, pre-packed.)
I grabbed a tiny handful of new basil leaves from the pot by the back door – but if you don’t have any, don’t fret.
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup roasted cashews
one clove of garlic

Drop it all on a large cutting board, and chop.
When it’s fine enough to cling together, scrape it into a bowl, add the juice of half a lemon,
and enough olive oil to make a moist dip consistency.
Salt and pepper to taste, and … pop that dip in the fridge, put the oven on, and hunt out the wraps/flat bread that have sat, ignored, in the cupboard for (shhh…. ) far too long.
Line a large tray with baking paper.

Place the wrap on the tray, brush or spray with olive oil (or coconut, or palm fruit, or whatever takes your fancy), grind a little salt over, slice into good, dipping sized pieces, and bake until brown and crisp.  A few carrot straws, some slices of cucumber,  crunchy flat bread thingos, and homemade spinach dip… it’s yummy stuff, folks.

And for afters?  (Because, you need afters, after a …snack?  Yes, sometimes you do 😛 )

Ice Cream

This is so easy to make, and is highly customisable (I’m sure that’s a word).

 

My Mama makes it with crushed maltesers, or (my favourite) crushed violet crumble mixed through, as a slice, and gives it a base and lid of malt biscuits.  Our farmer friend recently used the same recipe with frozen, whipped bananas – very nice!  So I had to try it.  Ready for this deeply complex recipe?  Here we go:

Whip 600 mls of cream

Fold in 1 tin sweetened condensed milk

Add your favourite fruit/chocolate/nuts

Spread into a dish, and freeze.

Too easy!!  😀

I chose to go with the whipped banana and blueberries, with blueberries to garnish, but the options are endless; honey and macadamias, smashed up (your fav choc bar here), mango, plain vanilla…  I’m not such a sweet tooth, so I added another 200mls of whipped cream to the same amount of condensed milk.  It’s a quick, fun thing to make with the little people of the house, and although it is not as fluffy as regular ice-cream, it was well received here.

 

Lastly, and this has nothing to do with food, but I just want to show you… aren’t these pretty?

 

 

Hey…. Pesto!

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Bloggy friends, home made pesto is adorable.  Just adorable.

This is my first adventure with it, and I am sold, and am convinced that it is worth the effort.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • ⅔ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • garlic (I used one large-ish teaspoon of crushed, but you can experiment with your quantity)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

First, wash and dry your basil leaves. Your hands will smell incredible after working with this aromatic herb 🙂

Next, gather your other ingredients and measure the quantities.

Lightly, lightly, toast your pine nuts. (The quantity of pine nuts in the photo was for four batches of pesto.)

You can toast them in the oven but it’s summer here, making the oven my mortal enemy.  So, if it’s hot, toast them dry (the heat will bring out the natural oils) in a fry pan over a low heat.  Be sure to move them constantly, and take them off the heat a little sooner than you think – they will keep cooking for a bit, even when removed from the heat source.

There are two ways you can tackle this pesto chopping business: by hand, or in the food processor.  I went with the “pretend I’m Italian and have nothing better to do” option, and did it by hand, but I’m sure it would still be glorious in the food processor.

Whichever method you choose, try adding a portion of all your ingredients in progressive stages.  At the end you will have some very finely chopped, saucy ingredients, and some in larger sizes that impart a distinct and personal flavour.

After the chopping process is complete, add a squeeze of lemon juice, seasoning to taste, and olive oil to your desired texture.  Squish it into a container, making the top smooth, and seal with a layer of olive oil – that is, if you don’t run off and make a big dish of chicken and pesto pasta – pronto! 😀

pssst….  I forgot to mention; if you make multiple batches, it will keep in the freezer for several months.  🙂

Farming, for the Faint Hearted

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Have I mentioned we live in the city?  Our house is surrounded by established gardens, and by midday is completely shaded.  It’s delightful, but not helpful for budding gardeners who aspire to vegetable patch ownership.

For some time now, we have enjoyed fresh produce from our farming friends.  There’s something exciting about selecting your dinner from the garden, and checking for lady beetles before eating!  What’s even more fun, is when the farmers can be induced to let us play in their dirt. 😀

We’ve long been fascinated with the variety, the sheer weirdness, of seed selection from heritage seed companies.  It’s worth browsing even if  you have no room for a vegetable patch.  We bought several varieties of obscure-sounding goodies, and showed our un-farmer-ish-ness by purchasing something that it is already too hot to plant.  (Ah! We are novices. 🙂 )

Right along with our new experiences of creating a row, and spacing and planting seeds, and watering, we were able to share a new experience with the farmer. Every parent will know what I’m speaking of: that phenomenon of having a lot of little helpers, which somehow makes a job longer and more complex than when you work alone!

We’ve also been watching the progress of several of the farmer’s vegetables.  We didn’t recognise the lettuce when it went to seed, and none of us could guess the identity of a sweet potato plant when we were first introduced to one.

Each week we check on the corn…

This week, we thrilled to see the first little radishes peep through!  Hooray!

Why are we extra excited about the radishes, you ask?  Well!  😀

Have you tried radish chips?  Even the little souls at our house who endure radishes gobbled these up.  They are that good.  So extra delishy scrumptious!

Radish Chips

 

Slice those little balls of fire into thin chips.

Toss around in olive oil.

 

Spread on a baking paper covered tray, and grind a little salt over. Or not.  (But I like to live dangerously 😛 )

 

I used the fan grill function of my oven, and left them for 15 mins.  In a normal hot oven they may take a little longer.

 

And that’s it.  They actually taste nothing like radishes, and it’s hard to say exactly what they do taste like, but friends, if you have radishes available to you, this is a must try.  Seriously.

Stay tuned…  I’m sure I won’t be able to resist showing you the chocolate capsicums, or the rainbow silverbeet, or the purple carrots, or …. (you really should browse the seed site.  It’s fun 😛 )

Thanks for visiting, bloggy friends!

 

 

What’s Cookin’?

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domestic bliss

Tell me honestly, does the thought of preparing meat and three veg strike fear into your very heart?

Yes?

Then you qualify to keep reading.  If not, I’m afraid you’ll have to shoo. That’s right: shoo! We are about to discuss some secret, serious, slack homemakers business.

Are you sure you’re not a perfectly capable, cooking dinner every night type of reader?  There is a danger you will be tempted to feel smug after reading, and as the character of my readers is paramount in my mind, I’d spare you that downfall.  So this is your last chance to scat.

O.K.  Unless of woman-kind I alone have ever struggled with the life sentence (pardon!) privilege of cooking sensible meals every single everlasting day of the week, we should be left with those of you who are, for whatever reason, be that illness, lack of skill or knowledge,  or  simply the propensity for reading too long in a day, failing to cook dinner as regularly as you need to.

My initial remedy for meal preparation aversion is not cheap.  This is no time to be budget conscious, and it may well cost you similarly to the round of take-aways and resturant dinners you rely on now.  Budget conscious comes later (if it needs to), but for now the primary goal is to establish a habit of daily preparation.  To that end, I offer you the “L plates” of meal planning.

When you advance there will be many factors to consider in planning a menu: for now the prime criteria is to make it as simple as possible while you establish a routine of meal preparation.  This may take two weeks to a month, depending on your dedication and circumstances (sickness and general trauma can delay progress!)

First, decide what you can make.  I’ve put together a MEAL PLANNER Beginnings *pdf that requires minimal preparation and leaves the least possible dishes to wash afterward.  You may want to tweak it in the event you don’t eat some of the food listed, but the idea is to be simple and realistic: you are trying to establish a habit, and this needs all the ingenuity you possess to pull it off.

* The recipe for Monday night’s dinner in the menu planner can be found here: https://beyondbluestockings.wordpress.com/2007/11/11/emergency-dinners/

The tuna can also be substituted with beef or chicken: I know that sounds weird, but I promise I have tried it all three ways, and it really does work with all three, and extends your choices!

If you are part way on the road already, you may want to browse the “emergency dinners” category to the right, or google simple meals and start planning your own menu according to tastes.

Cook like a busy person.  Remember how your mother and your home ec teacher taught that every vegetable needs it’s own saucepan?  And how there was a mountain of washing up at the end?

What were they thinking??? 😯

pots and pans

Take one large saucepan, half fill with water and add chat potatoes (you know the tiny ones you don’t have to peel? Because the point is…you don’t have to peel them, and it’s easy to guess how many each person will eat.) About five minutes before they are ready, dump in some mixed frozen veggies. Yes, in the same saucepan – forget home ec.  I actually find this easier than microwaving veggies, but  if you prefer to microwave, go at it.  On another night, use frozen corn cobs instead of the potatoes, and add the other veggies at the same time.

For variety, an alternative is to buy large, washed potatoes.  Again, you are not going to peel them: just wrap in alfoil and put them in the oven about an hour before you want to eat.  Don’t worry about pre-heating the oven and coming back to put them in – all in one action, put the oven on and toss the potatoes in.  Again, serve with some frozen greens – or not.  (You don’t want to shock your system. 😉 )

This will not be the most exciting few weeks of eating you’ve ever done, but if you stick at it, it will soon become less of an insurmountable task, and you will have the momentum of routine to stir you on to greater culinary heights.

Print out your menu and place it somewhere unforgettable.  If you are a morning person, (or if a new baby is the reason you find yourself not managing dinner any more) use the morning to half fill your saucepan with water and place it on the stove ready to go, or  wrap your potatoes in foil if that’s on tonight’s menu.  You will love yourself later and reinforce your commitment to actually go through with it come evening.

Decide on a time you are going to start dinner, and barring a natural disaster, stick to that time.  Ask your mother or someone to phone and hold you accountable if you need to.  Be sure to make a shopping list reflecting your menu – failure to have ingredients to hand  is to sabotage your plan.

In my dreams..

Preparing dinner every night may not ever make your heart sing, but if you can stick with it long enough, neither will it seem the insurmountable task it presently appears while driving past the pizza shop.  You may even grow to enjoy it: it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened, and certainly you will be healthier.

Happy cookin’ folks, and stay tuned for the “P Plates” of  meal planning, coming soon. You’ll be inspired 😉   (Or, confound it,  if you’re one of those sneaky Martha Stewart types and you didn’t shoo when you were supposed to, you can marvel anew at how the other half live 😛 )

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