DIY Peanut Butter Cups

March 14, 2012

It’s snowing/sleeting/spitting here today (ugh!) – a bit hard to swallow after last weeks heavenly sunshine, and even harder to believe after buying myself a new and much needed (flower-printed) hand trowel yesterday and a few (ever cheerful) pansies for my front stoop.

Despite all this, I am doing my best to stay cheerful – to look forward – and get ready (this is code for I am getting a pedicure!). I truly believe one must make time for themselves in this busy life, but to appreciate it is key (like it is with most things really). So with that in mind, here is a recipe for true self-indulgence and pleasure (especially if you are a peanut butter lover).

Rich, satisfying, and easy as 1, 2, 3 these are! So go ahead and enjoy the simple pleasures.

The Less:

Less packaged confections means less litter and less guilt. Less pesticides from heavily sprayed conventional peanuts means better health for you and your loved ones. Less refined fats & unpronounceable ingredients in your diet means more support for your body as it breaks down your fuel. Less stress on the system means better living. Y’know?

The More:

More satisfying richness from more real ingredients means less craving for calories elsewhere. More protein, real healthy fat, and intense flavor in your treats means more long term satisfaction so you can consume less, less often (you won’t need a lot). More peanut butter and chocolate together means (quite simply) more delicious. Straight up.

DIY Peanut Butter Cups
  • 400 grams good milk chocolate (buy it bulk – you could also use dark!)
  • (1) cup good smooth or chunky natural organic* peanut butter at room temperature
  • paper muffin cups (any size – fancy ones would be nice!)

Honestly that’s it! Here’s how to impress your peanut-butter-chocolate-loving friends..and a little ‘tip from the top’ today: men love these! Put up your chocolate to melt in a double boiling mechanism (I describe how I do it here). Melt your chocolate, stirring to prevent caking or burning. Once the chocolate is melted, keep it on the heat (very low) and add the peanut butter.

Stir together until the mixture is a gorgeous warm blend of pure glory. Feel free to add more peanut butter once you taste it..you really can’t mess this one up. Once you have eaten as much as you can handle from the stirring spoon (don’t be shy), prepare your muffin cups on either a flat cookie sheet or in a muffin pan (you might need 2 muffin pans as this makes more than 12). Spoon the mixture into the cups carefully – 2-3 tbsp per muffin cup or more depending on the size of cups you have. You don’t want to make these too big or you might not be able to finish a whole one in a sitting (or maybe you will)!

Shake the pan to even out the cups and pop these babies in the fridge or freezer to cool and set You can store these in the fridge forever….(I’d love to know how long they last you)..

* A word about peanut butter: it is really really important to use real natural organic peanut butter (I am sure most of you don’t need to read this) – processed peanut butters contain heinous amounts of saturated fats and refined oils that are straight up not good for you – peanuts are naturally oily as they are! Peanuts are also grown conventionally with heavy amounts of pesticides – so eat organic if you can! 

These super rich treats are great to have around in your fridge when you need a sweet hit. Creamy, rich, and oh so yummy, they’ll hit you right where it counts and you might just impress a friend or two. I like to use them as topping for ice cream – straight up french vanilla or homemade white chocolate hazelnut – say what? Yup, I’ll share that in an upcoming post…

ShiraDIY Peanut Butter Cups

Coconut Maple Granola with Cocoa Nibs

March 10, 2012

When the sun came out this week I knew it would bring with it good things. Boy, was I in for a pleasant surprise! I think it’s safe to say I was stunned, delighted, and totally honored to be Freshly Pressed by WordPress this week!

(Thank you WordPress!)

These things often happen when you ‘don’t feel ready’ as there are a few changes/additions I had been planning for this blog, but as it always goes…..you just go with it! A favorite quote of mine from a Paul Arden book says: So in that vein, I ‘fixed up’ a Facebook page for IPOM that you can like (or I hope you will!) it’s here, or just to the right on the sidebar – thanks so much!

I am beyond thrilled to meet all of my new (and fabulous) IPOM readers and continue to share the journey with all of you – thank you for joining me in my pursuit of finding more with (just a little) less, and a most hearty welcome! Granola is a favorite of mine.

Not in the hippie-patchouli-incense way either (though all of those things are lovingly fixed squarely in my DNA)…but the yummy, nutty, clean eating breakfast way! I love to grocery shop. I love markets, and I love color. A good grocery store is my happy place, always has been. I avoid the center aisles as much as possible (save for pasta, pasta sauce, and boxed snacks for my cracker loving 8 year old), and this means the cereal aisle. My dad joked to me years ago as a child that the cardboard box processed cereal comes in had more nutritional value than the sugary refined ‘dessert’ the box contained. I am sure there could be (just a little) truth to that – but regardless, I avoid food from a box as much as possible in favor of inexpensive bulk staples and fresh, colorful, inspiring foods…because (IMO) it’s just better.

One of those cheap staples is oats. Enter an easy, convenient, delicious alternative to bagged granola and boxed cereals. This real granola is made with 100% clean, 100% natural, and 100% accessible ingredients. You won’t feel too full after eating this, as you don’t need a lot (a little goes a long way). It’s chewy (great for mindful eating), and you don’t want to rush this, it’s just that good…….and I promise, your whole family will love it!

Coconut Maple Granola with Cocoa Nibs
Adapted from the Silver Hills cookbook, 1996
  • (4) cups slow oats
  • (1/2) cup shredded coconut
  • (1/2) cup slivered raw almonds
  • (1/2) cup raw sunflower seeds
  • (1/2) cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • (1/2) cup cocoa nibs (optional)
  • (1/2) tsp salt
  • (1/2) cup real maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp real vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add vanilla and maple syrup and mix well with your hands – don’t be shy! Bake in a deep baking pan (you can also use a cookie sheet) and bake about one hour, or until dry. Make sure to mix the mixture a few times while it cooks to prevent burning and promote even cooking.

Serve with cold milk or yoghurt, and some added hemp seeds, cranberries (as shown) or with any other real ingredient you desire. This will keep in a container or glass jar indefinitely and the recipe can easily be doubled – and you’ll likely be making it often!

ShiraCoconut Maple Granola with Cocoa Nibs

Killer Kale Pesto

March 7, 2012

The sun came out yesterday, and it seems, decided to stay for a while (the forecast is clear for at least another day).

Insert multiple smiley face emoticons here!!

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.

– Helen Keller

It’s safe to say it’s been a (very) welcome change and the views of the twinkling snow capped mountains are particularly breathtaking. Yesterday was the day that I just knew spring had come knocking here in these parts:

  • the larks have come singing
  • the daylight has come to linger for a (just a little) while longer
  • I nearly injured myself in my hustle to peel my boots and thick tights off to get outside.

Craving the fresh air and the outdoors after work, I hurled myself outside to enjoy the remaining glorious daylight, the bustle of activity around the park, and the smiles and quips of the many who were of the same mind as me.

Oh happy day, the larks were still singing too!

Of course in my excitement, I under-dressed as it was still finger-numbingly cold (a total newbie move). But I didn’t care.

You cannot dream yourself into character: you must hammer and forge yourself into one.

~ Henry D. Thoreau

What a perfect start to the week, and the perfect time to write another post about one of my all time favorite green vegetables.

Are you with me?

Yup, it’s KALE again! I just can’t get enough of this stuff these days – evidence on this blog is here and here.

Here it is, the most perfect pesto with a twist! This recipe can be made with or without the cheese (and I assure you) is stunning either way. It’s almost entirely raw too.

The Less:

Less store bought processed foods is always a good thing. Less processed salt and cheese is too. Less emphasis on oil and basil means more room for other greens, nuts, and your pure, unadulterated love.

The More:

More satisfying richness from real foods means less craving for it in less pure foods. More fresh kale, parsley, and fresh herbs means more rich green nutrition (that you can grow yourself!). More lemon will have you smiling, and more (killer) flavor will go an awful long way.

Killer Kale Pesto:

  • (1) cup pecan halves, raw
  • (1/4) cup pumpkin seeds, freshly toasted
  • (3/4) cup olive oil
  • (1) cup green curly kale, chopped
  • (1/2) cup fresh basil
  • (1/4) cup fresh parsley
  • (1) clove organic garlic
  • (1) tbsp salt
  • (5) tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • (5) tbsp good quality grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the pumpkin seeds on a flat tray and pop into the oven while it heats (my trick with dry roasting nuts – I put them in while the oven gradually reaches temperature, this keeps them roasting evenly and prevents that dreaded over roasting – ooooops!). Toast until fragrant and turning golden, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients and add to the blender, starting with the pecans first. Once toasted, add the seeds right away to the blender while still warm – the heat from the warm seeds will assist in better blending and the result will be a much smoother blending process and slightly more delicious pesto.

Blend on high and move around with a spatula to get it going*. Blend all until you reach a thick well blended consistency and there are no bits of kale left.

*Of course you can also use a food processor for this, but alas, I do not use one!

Voila! Scrape with a spatula into a clean jar. This will keep refrigerated for a while in the fridge (at least a week or more). You can also freeze in small containers!

This seriously delicious pesto adds an exquisite touch to a boring old piece of toast, a flavorful topping for a cracker, and an even more delicious component to a polenta appetizer or pizza (like I made tonight with broccoli – double green hit – super yum!).

I’ll share a few of my thoughts on polenta (and how to make a number of delicious dishes with it) in a later post, but for now, join me in an ode to freshness in the form of sunshine, fresh greens, fresh air, fresh inspiration, fresh finds, and best of all fresh ideas!

There may not (really) be anything new under the sun, but what old gem doesn’t benefit from a little freshening up from time to time?

  • How do you stay fresh?
  • Do you love kale as much as I do?

Oh, please do tell.

Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself

~ Zen Proverb

Welcome to all the new readers this week and and a huge, giant thanks to all the wonderful people I have met along the way so far! I really, truly enjoy all of your comments, and appreciate every single one!

This week I’ve got a yummy raw energy cookie to share, oil-free granola, and some other delicious bits and pieces..

I hope you are all starting a truly fabulous week..!

Yours in Less,

ShiraKiller Kale Pesto

Vegan Date Coconut Bliss Balls

February 21, 2012

Got a sweet tooth? Here’s a good challenge – ever tried cutting out baked goods and other sugary treats and replaced them with dried fruits and nuts for a week? Here’s a sweet way to feed your sweet tooth, with a little chocolate variation to make it even sweeter. All you need is good dates, dried coconut, a little nut butter, and of course, rich, healthy and incredibly satisfying hemp hearts. Combine these ingredients and enjoy a hit of sweetness before a workout or for dessert. Delicious with a spot of tea! Even your mother-in-law will like them.

Because everyone deserves a little sweetness in their lives.

Vegan Date Coconut Bliss Balls:
  • 2 cups pitted dates, soaked in water 6-8 hours
  • 3 tbsp Pumpkin Seed Butter (you can substitute almond or cashew butter)
  • 4 cups dried coconut
  • 6 tbsp hemp hearts

Soak dates for 6-8 hours prior to preparing in enough water to cover. When ready to go, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 2 cups of coconut onto a cookie sheet. Roast the coconut in the oven until fragrant (about 4 minutes) and turning brown. Remove from oven to cool in a bowl. Drain dates and add to blender. Blend dates to a paste (you will need to stop the blender to make sure you get it all blended, do not worry if there are a few chunks left). Do not add any additional water to the dates when blending.

Remove dates into a large bowl, making sure to scrape them all out from the blender with a spatula. Combine roasted coconut, plain coconut, and hemp hearts in a bowl. Add this mixture to the date paste one cup at a time, stirring with your hands. Add pumpkin seed butter – keep stirring! Don’t be shy with your hands..the mixture should be firm enough to roll into balls.

Roll into one inch balls with your hands until all done, yum….good work!

If you are adding chocolate, melt some high quality dark chocolate over boiling water (I do this by melting the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl over a pot of bowling water). Dip the balls into the melted chocolate by hand and set on a parchment paper lined flat pan. When done, set the balls by refrigerating until the chocolate is firm.

ShiraVegan Date Coconut Bliss Balls

Creamy Vegan Cashew & Fresh Herb Dressing

February 14, 2012

It’s here! Has Cupid come by to kiss you yet? I can see this morning there are a lot of folks pretty excited about Valentines Day. I hope everyone is feeling the love today!

It’s a day for the kids in our house, where they get to be reminded that their mother loves them. I like that, and so do they (they also don’t mind the Hershey’s kisses they find scattered on their bedroom floor when they awake). We’ve never really made a big deal about this holiday, me and my husband ~ mostly I think because we are lucky to have been married for many happy years. To risk sounding (just a little) smug and corny, we actually still enjoy everyday together. Like, a lot. I know, right? It’s pretty great and we try to tell each other as much as possible (and we certainly did this morning).

So…to balance off the heart shaped cookies and sweet delicious treats out there today, here is a way to celebrate freshness. You might just want to plan this one for tomorrow after the big Valentine’s dinner!This beautiful creamy salad dressing can be enjoyed with any meal. Because anyone taking the time to read blogs about food already knows the beauty in healthy food preparation made with love, all year round!

Creamy Vegan Cashew & Fresh Herb Dressing:

2/3 cup whole raw cashews
1 cup canola oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 bunch fresh dill (or substitute fresh basil or parsley)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients except water in a blender. Start the blender and add water slowly, in 1/3 cup measurements to get the mixture swirling. Blend everything on high for 2 minutes until super creamy and smooth. Make sure there are no chunks of nuts left in the mixture – adding the water in increments helps to make this happen.

There is no need to soak the cashews in this case as the oil and water provide the extra silkiness. Store dressing in a sealed glass jar in the fridge. This should keep for 3-4 days. Delicious on crisp fresh greens (especially romaine lettuce or spinach) or cold steamed vegetables like asparagus or broccoli. Personally I celebrate any crutch to get more vegetables into my day. Especially when it’s this delicious!

ShiraCreamy Vegan Cashew & Fresh Herb Dressing
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