Birthday cake pops!

It’s still 85 degrees here in Charleston and I’m craving fall. I just want to put on a cozy sweater and bake some pumpkin bread! So I kind of did anyway… :]

Mom’s birthday was the first day of fall this year and one of her favorite things is maple syrup.. quite fitting. After much debating about what would be easiest to send in the mail I settled on cake pops—little truffles of cake and frosting all smooshed together and dipped in glaze. YUM. I figured they were much more mail-friendly than cupcakes. And birthday cookies are just boring… Soo cake pops it was!

I wanted to incorporate as many warm and autumn-y flavors of possible, and I may have gone a little overboard :] The end result was a sweet potato-spice cake, which I baked, crumbled and mixed with maple-cream cheese frosting, formed into balls and dipped in cinnamon-maple glaze, and finally topped with some crushed pecans. I feel like I’m explaining my masterpiece on Cupcake Wars or something!

*I used this recipe for sweet potato cake, this for the maple cream cheese frosting, and this for the cinnamon-maple glaze.

‘Twas very long and intricate process, but the end result was fantastic, plus I got to enjoy tasting each element on its own. I managed to snap some photos before sending them off, because they were too cute and oozing with mapley goodness to let go undocumented.

So happy birthday mama, I hope the weather at home is more appropriate for these little sweet treats than it is here!

My original attempt to make "pops" failed because the glaze was too runny and wouldn't harden on top. Oh well, my truffles are cuter :]

My original attempt to make “pops” failed because the glaze was too runny and wouldn’t harden on top. Oh well, my truffles are cuter :]

mich

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Cookies of the earth

Dates + apples + peanuts + almonds + cacao + oats + rice + coconut.

Talk about an impressive list of ingredients for a cookie!

I intended to title these “no-bake choco peanut puddles,” but while scanning my list of ingredients I realized something—how close to nature these cookies really are :] Fruits, nuts, grains, legumes… but not processed, refined, enriched, fortified or sweetened like everything in our grocery stores seems to be.

So you can truly feel good about eating these cookies—they’re full of natural and whole foods, which are naturally better for your health!

Besides all that wholesome nutrition, these guys are good. In every single way. They’re rich with a chocolatey peanut butter flavor, they stay soft straight from the freezer and thaw extremely fast. Know what that means?! Yep. Ice cream sandwich perfection. A little spoonful of vanilla bean cream in between two of these guys and you’ve got yourself one divine, richly satisfying dessert. Let it thaw a minute and the cookie and cream meld seamlessly into one another.

Vegans rejoice. Make them gluten free if you wish by using gluten free oats. And even the biggest sweet teeth on the planet [me] can indulge completely guilt-free. No refined sugar, no artificial sugar. Just fruits of the earth. And love.

No-bake choco peanut puddles, adapted from here

½ c pitted Medjool dates, firmly packed (about 6-7)

½ c hot water

1 T coconut oil

2 T unsweetened applesauce

1/3 c natural peanut or almond butter

2 t vanilla

¼ c + 1 T raw cacao powder

¼ t sea salt

¼ c almond meal

¼ c peanut flour

1 c oats (processed in a blender a bit)

½ c puffed rice cereal (processed in a blender a bit)

**edited 8/29/12: I took out 1/4cup earth balance / applesauce from my original recipe and added 1/4 cup more oats. This makes the dough less runny and easier to work with. You could even get away with adding more oats/puffed rice if you’d like a stiffer dough.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the pitted dates in a blender or food processor. Add hot water, coconut oil and applesauce and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Blend or process the mixture until it is nice and creamy. You may have to push or stir the mixture down a couple of times, but make sure the dates are as broken down as possible.
Transfer the date mixture to a medium sized bowl. Use a small spatula to scoop out the mixture, as you’ll want to make sure you get every bit of it. Add the nut butter and vanilla; stir until well blended. Stir in the cacao powder, salt, almond meal and peanut flour. Add the processed oats and puffed rice and stir until well blended. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet and freeze 30 minutes or until set.
Since the dough is rather loose and gooey, I recommend keeping the cookies in the freezer until you eat them–they’ll thaw in about 60 seconds!
I you want to make ice cream sandwiches: Roll the dough out to ¼ inch thickness between parchment paper and plastic wrap. Cut into circles (I used a jar), freeze on parchment paper, assemble sandwiches and freeze in tupperware or plastic wrap til you’re ready for one yummy treat. *Note: the dough thaws quickly, so when cutting out and assembling sandwiches work fast!

My curried chicken salad

As someone who is very careful not to waste (any) food that I buy, I like to keep canned chicken or salmon in my pantry. That way I can use it when the craving arises and not get anxious about it going bad. Thus, chicken salad is a practical meal to make and last for several lunches of the week. It’s versatile and can be enjoyed on whole wheat sandwiches, mixed green salads, on flatbread crackers, lettuce wraps, or straight out of the bowl.

I have come up with my perfected chicken salad, — a mixture of fruity, cool and spicy flavors. Crisp apples, chewy dried apricots, crisp onion and celery, creamy tart yogurt, and warm curry and garam masala. I ate mine for lunch in big lettuce leaf wraps, making for a light and refreshing midday meal.

Fruity curried chicken salad

1 12.5-oz can white chunk chicken (I found Costco’s Kirkland brand to be the best- with big solid chunks of white meat)

¼ cup plain Greek yogurt

1 t spicy mustard

½ t curry powder

¼ t garam masala

½ apple, chopped

¼ cup onion, chopped

¼ cup celery, chopped

¼ cup chopped dried apricots or golden raisins

Salt + pepper to taste

These measurements are all estimations; I’m not sure of the exact proportions I used. Just throw everything together in a bowl, adding more of what you like, different fruits or veggies, more spice, less spice, whatever tastes good! Make it your own. Stir together with a fork, season with salt and pepper and enjoy.

17 pounder

It seems that the fruits of Mom’s garden are all or nothing. Blueberry bushes just won’t grow. Last year the tomato plants were completely overflowing; this year we got about 5. The zucchini is always plentiful but the corn wouldn’t even develop a full ear.

This summer Mom planted a watermelon, and we watched for weeks as it grew bigger and rounder, wondering how we’d know the right time to pick. A few times we researched “signs of a ripe watermelon,” and I stood in the garden listing them off the ipad for her to check. But it never seemed like the right time.

So I had about 3 days left before driving back south for school, and we decided to cave in and harvest this giant green monster. The supposed signs of ripeness still weren’t there but we were tired of waiting. It would either be absolutely perfect or entirely unripe……

…We weighed it, sliced through 17 pounds of melon… and what do ya know, it was perfect.

Perfect as in could not have been better and we must be watermelon harvest experts. That perfect. Vibrant red from the core to the rind, firm and JUICY as melon can be.

It certainly goes along with the all-or-nothing, luck or no luck thing we have going in the garden, but this time we were lucky, and I am grateful. It was juicy blissful deliciousness. And I surely savored those last 3 days at home.

mich

what’s cooking in il castello di sabbia?

Charleston fall is incredible. I assume today was just a teaser for the weather that is to come—as it’s supposed to be back at 90 this weekend—but nevertheless it was perfect. Blue sky, crisp air, warm sun, gentle breeze, about 75 degrees. And NO humidity. My bliss.

So I took this fall-like day as a note that it’s about time I post photos of our days of deliciousness at the beach this past summer. The annual Abbaticchio beach week (or two) indeed yielded some great homemade feasts with fresh caught crabs, shrimp and tuna, lots of fresh summer veggies and of course, PEACHES.

The drinks were flowing as well in celebration of my 21st birthday, and we made some killer cocktails with fresh herbs and berries.

Play, eat, drink, relax. My kind of routine. Oh how I love the days when there’s nothing to do but watch the sun drift across the sky and enjoy good food, drinks and friends :] Already looking forward to next year!

And now for some culinary highlights of the week…..

One of my favorite meals of the trip was Tara + Jamie’s Vietnamese Bun, a light dish of assemble-yourself vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs and vegetables, shrimp or steak and nuoc cham sauce. The perfect summer dish. Patty sauteed the shrimp with coconut milk, curry and pineapple, adding even more yummy Asian flavors.

Fresh mint brought from mom’s garden

…but wait! Jeremy, Kyle and dad returned home with their dinner contribution, crabs caught out in the bay behind our house. Time for a quick crab feast appetizer….

A proud father.

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