Brownie Bites

FullSizeRender-1My neighbor Diane sent me this recipe for brownie fake-outs after she heard I was doing the Whole30 cleanse, knowing that giving up chocolate for a month might be a bit of a challenge. (That’s the understatement of the year…) Looking at the short ingredient list, you wouldn’t think you could possibly get a chocolate fix out of these morsels, but they do taste surprisingly rich and fudge-like. I found I needed a ½ cup more dates than the author of the recipe on used in order to get the ingredients to stick together. I also felt more salt was needed for flavor, so doubled the amount.

The oil from the walnuts makes these pretty slippery when you are shaping them, so I rolled half of mine in toasted coconut to see if that absorbed some of the oil, and made them look like truffles. Then I tested the recipe on my book club babes, and they liked the fudge bites both with, and without the coconut. These were best served within 24 hours, as they started drying out and getting crumbly after a day in the frig. If I make these again, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to wrap each one in plastic wrap to keep them moist. I’m also thinking I really, really, REALLY want an honest-to-goodness brownie made with flour and butter and sugar. But this is a nutritious alternative, one loaded with omega-3 fats from the walnuts. If you want something loaded with the other stuff, keep on lookin’. It ain’t here.

Makes 1 dozen

1½ cups raw walnut halves
1½ cups soft, pitted dates
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon water
½ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, toasted *

I food processor fitted with “S” blade, grind walnuts into a fine meal. Add dates, cocoa, vanilla, and salt, and process until ingredients stick together and start to form a dough. Shape tablespoons of dough into balls, and place in parchment-lined container. Cover and place in frig to set. Once firm, wrap each brownie bite in plastic wrap. Return to frig to keep until serving or grabbing for lunches or snacks.

*NOTE: Toasting coconut brings out the natural sugars, and enhances flavor. Preheat oven to 375°. Place shredded coconut on baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, then stir and toast for additional 5 minutes, or until coconut is golden brown. Cool before rolling brownie bites in toasted coconut.

Curry Cauliflower Rice

IMG_1613Don’t be fooled by the name—no rice was actually harmed in the making of this dish. The Whole30 book has a basic cauliflower rice recipe side dish that’s quite good. But with only onions and carrots for extra flavor, I wanted more. So I created this hybrid of the Whole30 recipe and the Cranberry Pecan Curry Rice previously posted, a recipe I’ve heard that you really, really liked. Cauliflower is being used as a stand-in for a variety of ingredients lately, and it often still tastes like…well, cauliflower. Because it is. But this one really does taste like rice or couscous! I’ve served it to several guests lately, and they’ve all said, “This is cauliflower? Really? It’s so good! Have you blogged it yet?” 

And here’s a budget-saving tip. My local grocery store (Cub Foods) prices their cauliflower heads at $4, which makes for a kinda pricey dish. But Trader Joe’s sells cauliflower heads for $2.49, or you can get a bag of fresh riced (meaning minced) cauliflower for the exact same price! (Both are in the fresh produce aisle.) So if you don’t have a food processor to rice your own, it doesn’t cost you more to have them do the work for you. I’ve made this recipe with processing a whole head, and using the Trader Joe’s riced cauliflower, and there’s zero difference in taste. So go ahead and save yourself a step in prep!

Serves 6

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets, OR 1 bag of riced cauliflower
3 tablespoons ghee
1 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and grated
2-3 stalks celery, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
½ cup craisins*
½ cup chicken broth

If using whole head of cauliflower, pulse half of florets in food processor until rice-like consistency. Do not over-pulse, or you will have cauliflower mush. Remove from bowl of processor and process other half of florets. Save riced cauliflower for later.

In a large frying pan, melt ghee over medium heat. Add onion, and cook and stir until translucent. Add carrots and celery, stirring to combine, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add curry, salt, pepper, and chopped nuts, and stir until nuts are coated with spices. Toast for 1-2 minutes. Add riced cauliflower and craisins and stir until all ingredients are coated with curry. Add chicken broth, and cover pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until cauliflower is a rice-like consistency.

*NOTE: Whole30 only allows dried cranberries that have been sweetened in apple juice, not sugar. I wasn’t able to find dried cranberries sweetened in juice, so I just used the Ocean Spray ones I had on hand. I say, if you’re doing Whole30, go ahead and use them! I won’t tell if you won’t. Or use raisins instead, which aren’t sweetened and are Whole30 approved.

Oatmeal Carmelitas

FullSizeRenderOats and caramel and chocolate—oh my! This recipe was entered in the Pillsbury Bake-Off by Minnesotan Erlyce Larson in 1967, and won hands down. One bite of these gooey taste treats, and you’ll agree whole-heartedly with the judges decision. My friend Lois brought these to a gathering at our house, and they were the hit of the dessert table. (I consumed more than my fair share, so that’s why there are so few left on the plate in the photo. Sadly, this image doesn’t do them justice.) My mother makes a similar Caramel Candy Bar (posted a few weeks ago). Mom’s recipe is to die for, but her recipe requires laboriously unwrapping dozens of caramel candies to make the luscious middle layer, while this recipe uses a short-cut—a jar of caramel ice cream topping. Next time you’re planning a party, invite Lois. And ask her to bring these heavenly bars. Mmmmmm.


2 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups margarine or butter, softened


1 (12.5 ounce) jar (1 cup) caramel ice cream topping
3 tablespoons all-purpose or unbleached flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease 13″ x 9″ pan. In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients; mix at low speed until crumbly. Reserve half of crumb mixture (about 3 cups) for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture in bottom of greased pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine caramel topping and 3 tablespoons flour; blend well.

Remove partially baked crust from oven; sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts. Drizzle evenly with caramel mixture; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Return to oven; bake an additional 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until filling is set. Cut into bars.

Squirrel Bars

IMG_0896Don’t worry—no squirrels were harmed in making these scrumptious chocolate and pecan bars. Originally called “Chocolate Nut Toffee Bars,” this recipe came from a magazine insert promoting Eagle® Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk and Hershey’s products. And of course there’s a story behind our re-naming… The first time I made these, I set them out on our porch to cool. When I went out to get the bars an hour later, all the nuts had been stealthily removed, and there were tiny little claw marks marring the top chocolate layer. It looked like a miniature version of Wolverine had attacked the pan. Henceforth, the bars have been called “Squirrel Bars” at our house. We have often wondered if some poor little squirrel needed a few cavities filled after digging into our treats…

The bottom layer is similar to shortbread, only cocoa powder has been added to give the crust a chocolate twist. As simmered sweetened condensed milk makes up the middle layer, and just chocolate chips and nuts top them off, they whip up rather quickly. The hardest thing about this recipe is waiting for them to cool so you can eat them. But if you happen to be a squirrel, no need to wait. Feel free to dive right in.

Makes 24-36 bars

1 cup butter, softened (divided)
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s cocoa powder
1 (14-ounce) can Eagle® Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (6 ounces) Hershey’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips*
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease 9″x13″ glass baking dish. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the softened butter for use later. In large mixer bowl, beat remaining butter and sugar until fluffy. Add flour and cocoa, mix well. With floured hands, press cocoa mixture into bottom of prepared baking pan. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in medium sauce pan, combine reserved butter and sweetened condensed milk. Cook on medium to low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla. Pour over baked crust. Bake 10 minutes longer, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately top with chocolate chips. Let stand 1 minutes, then smooth out melted chips with back of large spoon while still warm. Top with nuts. Cool. Cut into bars. Store covered at room temperature.

*I’m a fan of Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips myself, but I have to be true to the originators of the recipe here.