Happy Humpday, Friends!
I dropped Jake off at camp last week, and promptly focused on plowing through a chest cold while nursing spider bites on my leg. Some nasty little Plainfield arachnid noshed on my left thigh for lunch a week ago and it’s STILL red and itchy. If any of you have killer homeopathic solutions, I’m all ears.
For the first time in my life, I actually miss something about Plainfield. It’s my kettelbell group! Working out here by myself just isn’t the same. So I’m sampling some fitness classes at the YMCA, and while the people are generous, kind, and welcoming, it just doesn’t compare to the challenges Tim the Trainer puts us through in every session. Add fitness snob to my list, which is growing. I’m slowly becoming a wine geek, am definitely particular about my coffee, have extraordinarily high standards when it comes to vegetables, and am now a kettlebell brat as well.
Some observations from my first two classes at the Y:
- If the trainer switches to a cartoon character voice while leading the class, I will most certainly stop in annoyance and look up. Every time.
- Although I once considered coordination one of my fortes, I apparently cannot perform salsa moves and alternating high kicks set to complicated choreography for the warmup. I now prefer mindless jump rope, jumping jacks, or walking leg kicks, thank you very much.
- When I hear, “Now lift your juicy beef off the ground,” as we begin a glute exercise, I look around to see if it’s a joke. It’s not. I stifle my wonderment, lift my drippy rump roast high and proud, and carry on.
All true stories. Those alone will keep me coming back, and of course, I’ll be more than happy to share the good-uns here.
Meanwhile, back in my tiny cabin kitchen, I’m not holding back when it comes to meals for two. I completely intended to bring you a fabulous zucchini lasagna today, but as I was assembling the dish and snapping pics, I came to the layering of the ricotta step to find decayed cheese within the container. More to come later this summer – despite our lack of a key ingredient, it was mighty tasty. And last night we created a winner – stuffed pork tenderloin wrapped in cherrywood smoked bacon with pumpkin-cranberry risotto alongside it. You’ll be seeing that one this summer too. 🙂
If you’ve followed me along here from the beginning (by the way – thanks for that. Let’s have a party celebrating you and me, OK?), you know quite well that I lack in the dessert category. The reasons are many – baking is such a science requiring exact everything, I’m not a giant dessert fan, the time, etc. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy an occasional treat. Quite the contrary! Daily I’ll eat a square or two of chocolate, or I’ll slather peanut butter on a rice cake and top it with sliced apples or dates for a mid-day pick-me-up. Usually I make a sweet treat when I host a party, but I always follow a recipe. Back in the day when we ate like crap I made more desserts, but they usually started with a box of something processed.
Now when I make treats, I immediately head over to Minimalist Baker, a (mostly) vegan and gluten free food blog by Dana and John out of Portland, Oregon. Many people associate negative connotations when they hear ‘Vegan’ but I’m telling you, the food that these folks create is OUT OF THIS WORLD! In the aforementioned kettle bell group there are a few vegans, and I love the challenge of cooking for them. Vegan food is wholesome (hi, plant based everything), delicious, decadent, savory, naturally sweet, complex, rich, and satisfying. And Dana repeatedly nails so many interesting food combinations on their blog with 10 ingredients or less, in one bowl, in less than 30 minutes.
When I saw her post on Vegan Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles, it was inevitable. First off, the combo: creamy peanut butter and rich chocolate. Just tell me you don’t love a peanut butter cup. I dare you! But then add a little crunchy texture in the way of nuts and – HOLLA! – pretzels. Gluten free pretzels. Which happen to be crispier and crunchier than their counterparts. How is that possible? I’m not sure. It just is.
You can knock these out in less than 30 minutes, and they are a fabulous two bite treat. OK, one bite if you’d rather. But savor them, people! They deserve the second bite so you can appreciate the effort you put into rolling those little balls and dipping them in chocolate.
Dana’s instructions are spot-on for assembling these delightful little nuggets. But here are a few of my own observations should you choose to make these for a backyard barbecue this weekend:
Use a food processor. It really helps pull them together effortlessly. When grinding the nuts, stop when they achieve a coarse sand texture. You don’t want to turn them into nut butter, since you’re using peanut butter. Add the pretzels, and zip it around a few more times to crush them up. Then move on to the next step.
Resist the temptation to skip the soaking of your dates. You want them soft and moist, and if you don’t soak them they might be too crumbly and won’t bring the entire confection to the proper consistency.
When you chop the dates and add the peanut butter, keep a rubber spatula handy. I scraped down the bowl a couple of times.
DO NOT add all the nut-pretzel mixture to the date-peanut butter mixture. You want the mixture to come together like this:
And using all the nut-peanut mixture will leave it dry and crumbly. Plus, we need a little extra for the sprinkle at the end. Both times I made these I reserved 1/4 cup of the nut-pretzel mixture.
Use a tablespoon measuring spoon, and pack the mixture in before rolling each ball. If you have a tendency to want to eyeball that’s OK, but you’ll end up with varying sized truffles, and the consistent size makes their presentation so much more appealing.
I melted my chocolate in the microwave in the following increments: 45 seconds, stir. 45 seconds, stir. 30 seconds, stir. Your chocolate will NOT be fully melted after the last blast, but just keep stirring and the heat from the bowl will finish the job. Be careful if you choose to melt via this method, because the chocolate can burn quickly.
And finally, once you start dunking the frozen peanut butter balls into the melted chocolate, be sure to quickly sprinkle the topping on them as you go because that chocolate hardens FAST on chilled dough.
In homage to my mother who always ran out of the house like a lunatic in her bathrobe to share her baked goods with the garbage men, mail lady, neighbors, and UPS guy (hi, James!), I trotted down to share these truffles with the dock guys. We finally have a tarp covering the pontoon boat, and they repaired and replaced our ripped fishing boat tarp.
Those guys work like dogs in the months of April through June, and I’m sure they’re grateful for a little light at the end of the installation tunnel. Hopefully my mid-day treat helped them along.
Have a great rest of the week. I’ll be back Thursday with a perfect summertime sipper.
For the recipe for Minimalist Baker’s Vegan Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles, click HERE.