handmade chocolate, almond, coconut bars

A few weeks ago I posted about roasting almonds. What a simple and delicious treat that was to make (and give)…

Though, I must be honest, the real reason behind roasting almonds was to make handmade coconut, almond bars!

The recipe calls for roasted almonds, so, I made them… 

Then, I enjoyed a few and stored the rest until I had time to begin the process of making what I was really wanting to make – the handmade chocolate bars…

I’ve always wanted to try making homemade chocolate treats and Karen Solomon offers up an irresistible recipe in her book, jam it, pickle it, cure it. 

So I tried it.

Though, not in one day. Not with a busy schedule and an even busier four year old…this was a project spread out over a few days and one late night…late because I had to wait until the boys were asleep – these were going to be a surprise!

First I roasted the almonds. Then stored them. Well, not all of them, I did enjoy a few…

roasted almonds

Then, a few days later I prepared and baked the coconut, almond bars.

bars cooling

Then wrapped, stored, and hid (they were going to be a surprise, remember?) the prepared bars for a few more days…

And finally, when time allowed (under the cover of darkness) I coated each with chocolate…I don’t have photos of this step because I lacked natural light (it was late at night while the boys slept)…plus, I needed both hands to dip and twirl the bars once coated…

chocolate covered bars

The finished product was well worth the wait (and planning time), so don’t let a lack of time stand in your way. Consider spreading the process over a few days and you’ll be rewarded with a sweet treat unlike any other.

bar split in two

No additives, preservatives or things unknown to most…just simple ingredients arranged with love. Too bad I didn’t get an almond in the shot…

No need for a dozen candy bars? Why not wrap individually and give as gifts? Or freeze a few for those days when nothing but chocolate will do…or add a few to a little ones Easter basket or give as party favors? The ideas are endless…

So much joy in a little bar. Who knew?

Coconut almond bars

Print this recipe!

slightly adapted from – jam it, pickle it, cure it, and other cooking projects, by Karen Solomon

Here’s what you’ll need;

2 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

24-28 whole roasted salted almonds

2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

What to do;

To make the bars, preheat oven to 350 degrees F., and prepare a rimmed baking sheet with a thin sheen of oil.

Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl and mix with a fork. You don’t have to beat the whites – just make sure the sugar, vanilla and salt are well incorporated.

Fold in the coconut. The batter will be stiff, like oatmeal.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the batter into your hand, and shape into a 1 1/2 inch log. (*side note – these bars could be made smaller too and then just use one almond per bar) Press 2 almonds into the top of the log, and place on the prepared baking sheet.

bars ready to be baked

Follow suit with the remainder of the batter. You should have at least 12 bars.

Bake for 13-17 minutes, or until the bars are just brown at the edges.

bars browned

Let cool 1 minute, transfer to a wire rack, and leave for about 30 minutes, or until completely cool.

bars cooling

To coat the bars, prepare the baking sheet with a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper, and have it ready.

Heat the chocolate over a double boiler and stir until it is melted and quite satiny. You should be able to drop it in ribbons from the end of the fork.

Using two forks, drop a bar into the chocolate and coat lightly on all sides, then quickly transfer to the waxed paper. Dip the remaining bars. If the chocolate gets too thick or your chocolate starts to get stiff, heat the chocolate some more, stirring well to distribute the heat.

Leave the finished candies at room temperature for about 4 hours, or until completely cool.

chocolate covered bars

How to store;

Store in an airtight tin or a sealable plastic bag, at room temperature, for up to two weeks or freeze.

Do you have a favorite homemade candy recipe? If so, share a link below!

enjoy!

mango lime pops

My oh my, how time flies by…

It’s tax season here in the good ‘old U.S. of A and I’ve been consumed with organizing and entering our business receipts, sales, costs of goods sold, and all that good stuff that accompanies tax preparation…hence, my absence here…

Now, if I’d had the time throughout the year (or chose to make the time) to enter all those facts and figures each month, well, I’d have been here sooner…but, I didn’t, so I had to dedicate many days (and a few nights) to that ‘tax stack’…thankfully though, that mission is complete, and now I can get on with more fun things, like popsicle making – homemade popsicles of course!

I can’t believe its taken me so long to make these luscious lovelies. Two mangos, a bit of sugar water, limes, kosher salt and voila, incredibly refreshing and tasty popsicles – seriously tasty! The most challenging part? Waiting for them to completely freeze…

Here’s how it happened;

I had come across a fabulous book a few years ago titled, ‘jam it, pickle it, cure it and other cooking projects’, by Karen Solomon. It has all the basic ‘stuff’ (think mustard, mayo, crackers, marshmallows…) and then some. Simple ingredients, easy to follow directions and beautiful photos, plus recipes for popsicles and homemade candy –  what’s not to love? I’ve tried a few of the recipes thus far, and look forward to trying many, many more, though popsicles were still on the, ‘to do soon’, list…so, when the opportunity presented itself, we made them!

Mangos happened to be on sale, there was a foot of snow on the ground, skies had been grey for days, more snow was coming … we needed something summer like – pronto – it was time to make the popsicles.

Mango lime popsicles.

popsicles

Here’s what you’ll need and what to do;

Mango and Lime Pops (click to print recipe!)

Ingredients

limes and mango

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. water

2 small ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, and cut into chunks

1/2 cup lime juice (about 4 limes)

IMG_3600

1/2 – 1 tsp. cayenne pepper

pinch of kosher salt

What to do;

Make a simp syrup by combining the sugar and water in  small saucepan and warming over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely.

Combine the syrup, mangoes, lime juice, cayenne pepper, and salt in a blender or food processor.

in blender

Blend well, pour into molds (stainless if you got ’em), and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.

in popsicle molds

These can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Either store in the molds or release and wrap well in waxed paper and then store in a marked sealable plastic bag.

Best part, they aren’t so terribly full of sugar that you couldn’t enjoy them for breakfast. (:

popsicles

Enjoy.

roasted beets

Roasted beets

These sublime beauties are a cinch to prepare.

Really.

In years past I’ve grown and harvested many, many beets;

veggies

though last years erratic weather prevented an abundant crop, sadly, I had only a few…

beet in ground

so, off to the farmers market I go!

unwashed beets

Wash, scrub (if necessary) and remove green tops. (Steam or saute greens with a bit of olive oil, don’t just throw those beauties away…)

beets in sink

tops and bottoms removed

I usually cut off the tops and tails of each beet. These beets I felt I needed to cut off a bit more than usual…if they are freshly harvested, I cut a much smaller area…

close-up before packing

Dampen each beet slightly with a bit of water and then wrap in foil.

wrapping each

I prefer wrapping each beet individually, though you could also prepare a foil packet and roast a few together. The key to either preparation is to be sure the foil is sealed. You want to be sure to keep all those lovely juices in!

Length of time depends on the size and freshness of the beet. Smaller beets take less time, larger beets, more. Also, the fresher the beet, the less time is takes to roast…smaller beets can take up to 25 minutes, while larger ones, up to an hour.

peeled and cubed

A beet is roasted once it can be easily pierced with a fork or tip of a small knife.

Now, you ask, “At what temperature do you roast?” Well, this can also fluctuate…beets are flexible with temperature…so, feel free to roast your beets while the rest of dinner is baking away, or on their own…beets are happiest between between 325 degrees F. and 425 degrees F.

If it’s only beets your roasting, then place those lovelies in a 425 degree F pre-heated oven.

I usually roast them in my cast iron skillet, but any oven safe pan will do. The foil keeps all the steam in, thus, all the resulting juices too…making clean-up a snap!

Do be careful while opening each packet as juice may spill out…beautiful deep purple juice. Staining juice…

Once cooled enough to touch, peeling is so easy that the skins simply slip off. If you don’t mind having your hands stained a crimson red for awhile, then by all means, slide those skins off with your bare hands. If not,  you may prefer using gloved hands or you can also use a paring knife. Granted, using a paring knife will not prevent staining, it’s just another method…

sliced with salt

Regretfully, I do not have any photos depicting the ease of slipping off the skins…by the time each beet had cooled enough to hold, the sun had set. My natural light  had disappeared…

But, the following day, the sun shone bright and I enjoyed these lovelies sliced and sprinkled with a smidgen of kosher salt as well as in a salad of fresh spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.

beet and spinach salad

Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Why not roast a few today?

Enjoy!

out with the ‘old’, in with the ‘new’…

I thought I’d end this year by talking about my favorite place – the freebie barn!

The freebie barn, swap shop, transfer station, call it what you will, it’s a fabulous resource!

Granted, not all transfer stations allow ‘shopping’, and that’s a shame. Mine does and I call it the ‘freebie barn’, though the sign on the outside calls it, the ‘swap shop’…

Why not set aside a space for residents to drop off unwantedbut good stuff – for others to use…instead of trucking it away, to be dumped into a large hole in the ground (planet earth), to only eventually leach out into everything…? Why not invest in a ‘swap shop’ area?

Wouldn’t a space such as this help a town save on expenditures for removal of said stuff? All the while allowing residents to utilize perfectly good stuff someone else simply tired of – thus, maximizing the re-use of already consumed goods, which in turn minimizes consumerism? Which, ultimately, lessens our impact on the world around us?

I realize a resource such as this improves things ever so slightly, yet, it’s a step in the right direction…how can anyone disagree with that?

Every piece of ‘junk’ removed by another resident (recycled) vs. an outsourced company, is so much better for everyone…why not have an area designated for this?

Finn and I visit our transfer station once a week (at minimum). It’s the place we take our trash and recyclables as well our time to visit the ‘Swap Trailer.’ I love this place.

I’ve picked up such cool stuff here.

And not only is everything being recycled, it’s also free. Free and recycled. What a fun combination!

I also realize not everyone shares my sentiment about re-using, and that’s ok. Everyone’s different. If you don’t want to ‘pick’, don’t.  But do drop off your good stuff, versus just chucking it in the trash. Don’t have a local transfer station, why not consider donating?

I’ve shared photos of things that I’ve found over the years, though I’ve never shown the space in which I find my treasures…it’s quite the place…Here’s one of the signs viewed upon entering.

swap trailer

enter at own risk

And here, is another…

The swap shop is a trailer. A tractor trailer, an 18 wheeler kind of trailer, but on the ground.

One end is open, with double doors. Each door proclaiming a sign…that’s the entrance.

Various shelving is found along the two long walls…

shelf of stuff

books on shelf

And things are piled in, around, and on these shelves…clothing, shoes, utensils, ice skates, skis, furniture, toys, books, candle stick holders, glassware, dishes, books, small appliances, instruments, picture frames, baskets, cameras, rugs, framed prints, tools, lamps, curtains, baking pans, gardening tools, boots, antiques, mirrors – are a few of the things one might find on any given day…the list is endless – seriously.

I have found SO many great things here!

Granted, some things really should be trashed, like the badly chipped vase viewed in the photo above…though, that’s my opinion…I guess someone could argue it’s still usable – I wouldn’t use it, but that’s my opinion… who’s to say what’s trash and what isn’t?

One man’s trash is another’s treasure!

You just never know what you might find…

tic tac toast

mask

Below are a few more recent acquisitions…love ’em, especially the metal ice cube trays…and the vintage pyrex mixing bowls!

metal ice cube trays pyrex bowls + metal mixers

turquoise pyrex

muffin tins + baking sheet

I wish I could have taken this (imagine it, cleaned, painted and with new hardware) from the outdoor covered area – too bad I had no where to store it! What a sideboard it could have made!!

side board

Do you like to recycle and go ‘junking’? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

All the best to everyone in 2014, may it be a prosperous and peaceful year for all!

Happy New Year!

Enjoy!

more muffins!

Muffins. Who doesn’t like a muffin? OK, I’m sure someone, somewhere doesn’t like muffins or perhaps has never even heard of a muffin, but for me, I love muffins. Not all the time mind you, but when a situation calls for muffins, muffins I will bake.

muffins under glass

It was our familys’ turn to provide snack for Finns’ classroom (once a month, each family is responsible for providing snack for 25 students), and since cranberry season is upon us, cranberry orange muffins only made sense.

Prefer blueberries? Check this recipe out!

Nuts (of any kind) are not allowed at Finns school (nut allergies), so I couldn’t use them, but if I could have, walnuts would have been my choice. The combination of cranberries and orange zest scream for walnuts…at least in my opinion…so if I could have, I would have added walnuts!

The tart sweetness of the cranberry, the pop of orange zest, combined with the velvety crunch of the walnuts (or not), make this recipe irresistible this time of year…

Assemble your ingredients, blend, mix and bake. Muffins in about an hour. Why not?

muffin on paper

If the thought of cranberries and orange zest makes you swoon, why not try this fancier version for holiday get togethers – Orange cranberry cake!

finished cranberry-orange cake

Enjoy.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Print this recipe!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients;

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 beaten egg

1 2/3 cups milk

1/4 cooking oil (I used olive oil)

2 tsp. finely shredded orange peel (or any orange – like citrus fruit – I used clementine rind)

1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries

3/4 cup chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts (optional)

Here’s what to do;

In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Blend in finely shredded orange peel.

Create a well in center of dry mixture.

In medium mixing bowl combine the egg, milk and oil.

Add egg mixture to the ‘well’ in the dry mixture.

Stir just until moistened – this is the key for fluffy muffins – do not over mix.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until fork comes out clean. Rest in muffin tins until able to touch, then remove and allow to cool on rack.

Enjoy immediately or freeze for another day.

muffin on plate

 Enjoy!

potato leek soup

I’d never grown leeks before, but thought I’d try…and I’m so glad I did. Mass produced leeks lack, what all mass produced veggies lack, and that’s taste.

my leeks 1

Backyard leeks are incredibly powerful,

Less is more with these beauties…

my leeks 2

Not a gardener? Well then stop by your local farmers market and pick up a few…or your local health food store…or the organic produce aisle of your local supermarket.

The difference is incredible and well worth the expense…see for yourself.

Potato Leek Soup

Print this recipe

potatoes, leeks, onion

1.5 lbs. potatoes

3/4 to 1 lb. leeks – chopped

1/2 onion – chopped

4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock…whichever you prefer…

juice from 1-2 lemons

olive oil

a couple tablespoons of butter

salt and pepper to taste

That’s it.

Here’s what to do;

First, wash and peel the potatoes, then chop.

Second, clean each leek, chop white parts only.

cleaned leeks

trimmed leeks

Peel and chop onion.

choped onion

Splash enough olive oil to coat bottom of a heavy bottomed cook pot.

Heat over medium heat.

Add chopped onion and a bit of butter…

caramelized onion

Saute until browned.

Add chopped leeks…

chopped leek

Toss in a bit more butter…don’t be afraid…

Saute for a few more minutes.

Add chopped potatoes.

potatoes and onions

Toss and coat with buttery, browned onions/leeks…

Add a bit more butter…

Mix well.

9.adding stock

Pour in stock.

Stir.

Add a good pinch of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir.

Finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice…

Cover and simmer for about an hour.

slighly pureed in pot

From here it’s up to you;

Do you prefer a pureed version of potato leek soup? If so, then mix potato and leeks in a blender, with a bit of stock…keep blending in small batches until desired consistency is met…add more salt and pepper to taste…

Or, if that’s not your style, why not enjoy it, as is…?

Final option.

Utilize a hand mixer and puree only some…thus creating a smashed up soup, that’s what I did.

Whichever you choose…

Finish with ringlets of freshly chopped leeks (greenish part) and possibly even a splash of cream…

potato leek soup served

Serve with freshly baked bread.

freshly baked bread

Enjoy.