Merry Christmas! (And a Quick Recipe)

Christmas KatnissI know that many of you are rushing to finish your last minute holiday preparations, but I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas this year.

And if you’re needing a quick homemade gift or just a dessert for the family, here it is:

Quick Pecan and Marshmallow Holiday Bark

If you have mini-marshmallows, then you’re ahead of the game! Otherwise, cut a bunch into pieces. Mix the cut marshmallows in with chopped pecans (or any other type of nut you have on hand) to prevent the marshmallows from sticking to each other. Then melt chocolate and mix with coconut oil just to make the chocolate last a bit longer. Combine that chocolate-y goodness in with the marshmallows and pecans and spread into a greased pan. Cut when firm and eat!

I will be having a quiet day at home this year, but I hope that you enjoy your holiday.

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Chocolate Caramel Popcorn, or Salvaging a Failed Kitchen Experiment

Chocolate Caramel PopcornDuring one of my daily Facebook-ing sessions, I happened to see a recipe for caramel chocolate bark posted on a company’s website. It looked so easy that I thought I must try it for the holidays. Easy, sweet, and awesome! What could go wrong?

Well, it was ok, but it wasn’t great. And it certainly wasn’t worth serving to others. My husband gladly ate the result, but what to do with the remaining caramel?

Google search to the rescue!

We have plenty of popcorn kernels in our pantry, and so I decided to give this recipe a try.

I used the basis of the recipe and made a few changes based on what I had on hand.

I popped the popcorn and mixed it with two handfuls of chopped pecans as well as a small handful of small chocolate morsels. The caramel was poured over this mixture and put in the oven as specified in the recipe. From here, the only change I made was stirring the mixture every 5 minutes while it was in the oven.

The result? Honestly good! Very gooey and delicious, with the right amount of crunch from the nuts. My only possible change for making it in the future would be to sprinkle a bit of salt over it at the end. Sweet and easy, perfect for the holidays!

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Almond Flour Scones with Chocolate Chips

almondfloursconesPerhaps they don’t have this product available in your neck of the woods, but around here, the grocery stores carry Two-Bite Scones. Have you seen these little treats? My husband and I certainly have. We were hooked on these sweet little things for quite awhile, buying at least two containers per week. Obviously, this wasn’t a healthy (or frugal) habit.

What to do? Well, I decided to make our own two-bite scones!

After a bit of searching, I found this recipe for Almond Flour Scones with Chocolate Chips. It looked simple–always a plus for me–and only included ingredients that I already had on hand. Another big bonus was that it would use up some of the chocolate that I had purchased awhile back from Bulk Foods.

These mixed up really easily, in only about 5 minutes. When I don’t have to drag out the stand mixer, it’s a good baking experience! As we prefer the small scones, I shaped ours like “cookies” rather than the traditional pie shape. In the oven they went, taking only about 8-10 minutes to finish baking. (One tip for summer baking: do all of your cooking in the morning or late evening so that it doesn’t heat up the house too much.)

And the verdict? Delicious, light and fluffy little treats. They are lightly sweet and perfect with morning coffee. To be honest, I actually prefer these over the store variety as they are satisfying and still provide some nutrients. And with such a short mixing and baking time, there’s no reason to go out and buy the super-sweet and expensive scones.

Making your own can be overwhelming sometimes, but in the case of these beauties, there’s no reason not to. To the kitchen!

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Simple Treats: Almond Meal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Coconut

almond meal cookiesI have to admit that lately I’m feeling a bit worn out. Although I actually enjoy cooking and baking, it just seemed too overwhelming in the midst of all of my work lately. I must confess that we’ve been eating out a lot. Not frugal, but sometimes necessary for sanity’s sake. Rising early and staying up late, I found that cooking can be simply too much when faced with such a schedule. I don’t think it’s bad to ask for help in such times, and seeking rest eventually will help with the soul as well as the mind.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” —Psalm 62:1-2

Luckily, I believe I’m at the end of the heavy work period and so will be able to dive into baking and cooking. To celebrate–a tiny bit, at least–I decided to bake a quick batch of Almond Meal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Coconut. I had some time and all of the ingredients, so off I went to the kitchen.

For my cookies, I chose to use coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar, and I used chocolate from Bulk Foods. The batter was easy to mix up but resulted in a somewhat crumbly mixture. I was able to form the cookies, though, after the refrigeration period, and they cooked up nicely. One tip might be to do the smooshing of the cookies after a few minutes in the oven so that they don’t crumble into pieces. I also baked mine about 9 minutes, which seemed perfect for my oven.

The cookies were sweet, but in a natural way, with a light texture and taste. I would definitely make these again as they satisfied the tastebuds of both children and adults.

So here’s to simple pleasures and treats! Be sure and take some time for rest for your bodies and souls in the midst of heavy schedules. And don’t forget some nourishing treats as well.

 

Treats for the 4th of July: Chocolate Peanut Butter Mocha Powerballs

choco bites

Have you ever just needed to make something yummy? Perhaps it was all of the talk of the holiday on Facebook, or maybe it was simply a craving for chocolate. No matter the reason, I had to make a sweet treat today for my honey and me.

While the sky’s the limit when it comes to treats and possibilities, there were some conditions. With such a hot day outside, it had to be a no-bake recipe so that I didn’t heat up the house too much. Second, it had to use ingredients we already had around the house. And finally, it would have to be quick as I am working today. With the internet at my fingertips, I knew I would find something, though.

After much searching and finding other awesome recipes, I finally found Chocolate Peanut Butter Mocha Powerballs. This recipe had everything I wanted and needed–caffeine, chocolate, oats, and a little sweetness. These would power us both up and give us energy to get through our day.

My choices for the recipe were as follows:

  1. Maple syrup for the sweetener
  2. Whole oats
  3. Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee

Generally, with the choices above, this was a fairly frugal recipe as we already had everything on hand. Plus, purchasing oats and cocoa in bulk helps quite a bit in the long run. The two main ingredients that were expensive would be the maple syrup and the Starbucks. As honey can be purchased in bulk and stored easily, this might have been a better choice to make this recipe a bit more frugal. However, I was feeling lazy and so grabbed the syrup.

With the help of my trusty little food processor, I was able to mix these up rather easily. To make them a bit fancier, I gave them a good coating of cocoa before putting them in the fridge.

These treats pack quite the punch! They are not very sweet but rather have a dark chocolate sort of taste. The flavors mix well and make a perfect treat for afternoon coffee. They are filling, and so I would recommend making these a bit smaller. Still, they are a cool, chocolate-y treat for a hot July day.

Pumpkin Pie Reeses

pumpkinpiereesesWith just a tad of pumpkin left in a can, I needed just the right recipe to use it. Luckily I had found the recipe for Pumpkin Pie Reeses on Pinterest. It seemed like the perfect thing to make on a Sunday afternoon—using up the last of my pumpkin with a bit of sweetness for my honey. Well, that was the plan, at least.

My husband, who has enjoyed the coconut chocolates that I have made in the past, thought that these candies tasted “off.” He—the man who normally likes dark chocolate, even up to 80% cacao—scrunched up his nose and hesitated to respond when I asked how he liked them. I knew he didn’t want to hurt my feelings, and so he just wouldn’t give me an opinion other than the initial impression.

I tasted them and found them to taste like dark chocolate—not my favorite, but still fine. My assumption is that perhaps they weren’t sweet enough, or maybe just not the right combination of flavors for him. They may grow on him with time, but I always like to see a happy hubby when he’s eating my sweets.

Here are some possible suggestions if you make this recipe:

  • Use real chocolate instead of making the coconut chocolate for these goodies.
  • Add more sweetener to the chocolate and the filling.
  • Use this recipe for the coconut chocolates instead.

All in all, I had hoped that he would love this dessert, but it doesn’t seem like that will be the case. There will be more desserts, though, and always another chance to make him a happy hubby.

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Nutella Gem Cookies

nutellagemcookiesAs we did a bit of work around the house this afternoon, I thought some cookies might be in order. Too, today has been quite chilly, and so heating up the kitchen a bit sounded quite nice. Of course, my energy is quite low today despite lots of coffee; anything I made had to be easy.

After considering the ingredients that we currently had on hand—mainly a tube of sugar cookie dough and an almost-empty tub of Nutella—I did a bit of quick searching on the internet. What did I find?

Voila! Nutella Gem Cookies!

These cookies were definitely easy to make. I was pulling the first batch from the oven when my husband walked in the kitchen.

“Did you just make these?” he asked.

“Yes, of course,” I acknowledged.

“You are amazing,” he replied as he grabbed a couple of cookies.

And the verdict? My husband thought they were a bit rich, but he seemed to enjoy them. (He came back for seconds.) I tried one myself and found them quite good even though I don’t normally like Nutella.

I would have to say that this recipe is a winner and perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Enjoy the rest of your day with your family!

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Getting Fancy with Chocolate

gettingfancywithchocolateMy poor honey has had quite a week so far; I therefore wanted to treat him a bit with something sweet. As you may remember, I mixed up some coconut oil chocolates awhile back. Not to repeat myself, I wanted to fancify those chocolates, making them extra special. I wound up with three varieties to delight the taste buds of both my husband and myself.

First, you might notice that the candies are in different shapes. I indulged in silicon molds for our chocolates so that they would come out a bit nicer. Another benefit is that by using various molds, you can provide your family with an easy clue as to the type of candy they are eating. I used two molds for this batch today—one pumpkin and one flower.

As my husband loves candied ginger and coconut, I decided to sprinkle those two ingredients in the bottom of each mold and then pour the chocolate over the top. Although the finished candy wasn’t without some bubbles and lumps from the ginger and coconut, they taste great. Both ingredients seem to complement this type of chocolate, adding a new dimension to the flavor of the candies.

coffeechocolatesMaking the above chocolates, I began to wonder about coffee. Could I add coffee to the candy? I couldn’t not try it, and so I prepared to make a new batch. As an experiment, I added instant coffee to the coconut oil and honey as they were melting. I’ll admit that the mixture looked awful at first but began to smooth out through careful whisking. And the result? Oh, my! They are wonderful! The candy tastes like a dark chocolate that is infused with coffee, and they melt in your mouth. Too, they pack quite a punch with the caffeine in them.

All in all, this attempt to fancify the candy worked wonderfully. This recipe—on top of being simple enough for even me to make—is obviously very adaptable and so can be altered to fit your family’s tastes. For those of us who can’t afford to visit an expensive chocolatier, this is a frugal way to make candies for your own family.

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Almond Chocolate Freezer Fudge: Love Calories

almondchocolatefreezerfudgeSometimes I go a little crazy and make an expensive dessert. I suppose I could excuse this in that it did use up some chocolate that has been lying around on the shelf for a bit. Too, it could be considered energy saving in that I didn’t need to heat up the mixture. However, I would say that this recipe is mainly “love calories,” those calories that bolster our family’s morale in the midst of frugality.

The ingredients make this recipe expensive. I used SunButter due to the sensitivity of my husband’s daughter to peanuts. While that certainly made it an appropriate dessert for her, it sure was expensive. Also, I was concerned in that once mixed with the other ingredients, the butter did not “pour” as the recipe said, and so it seemed as if the fudge would certainly fail.readyforthefreezer

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the fudge did not fail, but rather tasted wonderful. Despite the lack of sugar in the batter itself, it was very sweet, but not overly so. If you’re wanting to introduce your family to whole foods desserts, then this might be a good place to start. Both my husband and his daughter readily ate the fudge and never complained.

Perhaps it’s good for me to go crazy every now and then. My family sure enjoys it!

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Comfort Food

comfortfoodFor various reasons, today has been a difficult one for me. Worrying and irritation left me with a lot of nervous energy. Although I could handle that surplus in a less healthy manner–eating my way through an entire package of Oreos, for example–I decided to focus on making some comfort food for my honey and me. This seemed the more positive path, and certainly less calorie laden.

velveetanbiscuitsFor lunch, I made something quick, Grilled Cheese Pull-Apart Rolls. Coming from the South, I particularly enjoy anything with biscuits. Too, it was frugal in that we had some biscuits and the remains of a loaf of Velveeta to use up. So, for both reasons, this recipe was a win. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time appreciating it. First, the rolls took a lot longer to cook than was listed in the recipe itself. This led to a super-heated house and a sweating honey. Also, the Velveeta was a little overpowering in its gooey-ness, and so the biscuits were difficult to even enjoy. Still, they made an easy lunch that filled us up.

homemadejuniormintsTonight, I decided to mix together some Homemade Junior Mints. As a kid, my favorite candy at the movies was Junior Mints. If given the choice among all the different varieties available at the movie theater, I always chose those small little mints. This recipe, therefore, was a natural for my own comfort today. This homemade version is certainly healthier and less sweet, but it was still enjoyable. It also did not require specialized equipment or a stove, and so very appropriate for a warmish evening. They turned out quite good and have brought back some great memories.

So, perhaps I didn’t get my Oreos, but I can say that I still got the comfort I needed. I provided my husband with a filling–if not exactly healthy–lunch, and we have a tasty treat for the next few days. Most importantly, I only ate one Junior Mint.