Thursday, December 18, 2014

Grain-Free Raw Brownie Balls

A couple weeks ago David and I went to our friends Max & Maren's house for dinner. I brought a white wine, red wine, appetizer, and dessert. Since doing Whole30 David and I have tried to eat less refined sugars so when I said I'd bring a dessert, I consulted my Pinterest board of Paleo Sweets. I decided on a paleo brownie recipe. It was...not good to say the least. When I took it out of the oven, I knew it smelled "off". It didn't rise much, and I had little to no hope for it.

Have you ever experimented with a new recipe on a day when you're supposed to bring dessert? Well, I should know better than to do that, but I was desperate to try a paleo brownie recipe. The one I tried was definitely a flop, though Max and Maren both ate their piece, my mom and David said they enjoyed them, and my dad was on the fence about them, just like me. Needless to say, these delicious brownie bites are not those brownies.

These tasty morsels come together quickly in a food processor, like above. I wanted to show you the texture that they should be, because while the food processor is going, you need to add a little water. This texture is perfect for rolling into balls.

This was about the fifth or six time I've made these little brownie bites. I've been making them every week for our 10 a.m. snacks. They are perfectly sweetened by natural dates, so no refined sugars there! The cocoa powder makes them exactly like brownies, and the walnuts keep you satiated long enough to hold you over to lunch. David and I usually eat two as a snack.

One of the best parts about these little balls of heaven is that they smell amazing! No baking required and they smell just like brownies. It's pretty amazing. I definitely should have brought these that Saturday night for Max & Maren rather than the pathetic excuse of brownies that I did bring.

One bite of these is never enough. 

Grain-Free Raw Brownie Balls
Recipe by Paleo Grubs
Makes about 15 balls

1.5 cups walnuts
1 cup dates, pitted (about 8 dates)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1-2 tablespoons water

In the bowl of a food processor; add walnuts, dates, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and salt. Pulse ingredients until all chopped up. Once all chopped, turn on and let it rip. Slowly pour in 1 - 2 tablespoons water to help ingredients come together to form a ball. Once it all comes together, use a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon to form balls. Place out on a baking sheet evenly and freeze for 1 to 2 hours, or overnight. Remove from baking sheet, place in a plastic bag, and store in the freezer until ready to eat.

Here's a picture of Ryder while I was making these. He has a love/hate relationship with that pillow. It's either on top of him, his head resting on it, or he's slapping it off the chair completely. What a spaz.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Brew Review: New Belgium Brewing 1554

Beer: New Belgium 1554
Date: 12-14-14
Type: Black Lager
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Alcohol: 5.6%
IBU: 21

Appearance: Black, little creamy tan colored head, tons of tiny bubbles rising to the top

Aroma: Dark, heavy, malts, chocolate

Body & Texture: Great carbonation, full bodied, smooth, easy to swallow

Aftertaste: no bite, malty, chocolate

"A Belgian book from 1554 would inspire this Black Lager recipe. Brewed back to life, 1554 immediately made fans with its surprisingly light taste and dry, chocolaty finish." - New Belgium  

Overall Impression: 
I've had 1554 quite a few times in the past, but it's been a good year or two since the last time I gave it a try. While I was looking through Whole Foods selection of single bottles, I was immediately drawn to 1554. I remembered the dark delicious taste of the beer and knew it'd be perfect for a cool winter day.

This is definitely a beer to sip on next to a fire. It's a great beer to bring to a Christmas/holiday gathering. While the back of the bottle refers to it as light bodied, which is true due to it being a lager, this beer doesn't necessarily feel light. I would definitely only want to drink one of these in a day or night.

The beer is crisp on the tongue, and has a nice amount of carbonation. What is left in your mouth after swallowing is definitely chocolate. I could taste that even before reading the bottle (I like to test my taste buds).

I'm not a huge fan of porters and stouts so a black lager for me is the perfect winter beer for me. It's got a great color that makes you feel like you're enjoying one of those heavier beers without actually having to open a heavier, higher alcohol beer. Sip on this beer after dinner by the fire or before your dinner as an appetizer. Either way, I'm sure you'll be a fan. I'd definitely recommend it for the cooler months. Don't let the dark appearance scare you away.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Curry Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Hola! Happy Sunday evening. I'm just sitting here with a glass of Matrix Winery Pinot editing photos and working on blog posts. It's already dark outside and I'm listening to the sound of rain. It's a pretty relaxing night here. Soon I'm going to get started on yet another soup. Tonight's is Split Pea, Bacon, Potato Soup. It's a total keeper. I made it twice last year, and I'm happy to make it again this year.

I'm making soup all week long. Sounds fun, right? Well, maybe to some people but I'm definitely going to be souped out by Friday. Luckily we have dinner reservations at Campo Fina on Friday night with some friends. The reason we're going to be having soup/chili's all week long is because David had his wisdom teeth removed on Friday. All four of them! The bottom two were impacted (of course), so those two were a bit harder to remove. The surgeon said he'll have the hardest time recovering with those two. Overall the surgery went smashingly well. It didn't even take more than 45 minutes from the time they brought him in until the time they called me back and he was waking up.

I doubt David wants me to share this photo with the world, but since he asked me to take a photo of him, I'm sharing it. He was in good spirits when he woke up, but he was also seeing double. haha. He told me he was "on some good shit". I think he was feeling a little gangster on the drugs. The rest of the weekend he's been recuperating and taking it easy. Mostly living on our couch, watching Netflix, and being fed homemade soups. Not to shabby...

Since I do my meal planning on the weekends and I knew David had his surgery coming up, I planned to make him a butternut squash soup on Friday night. This soup was dee-lish-ous! Seriously! You have to try this soup.

I know it seems like a lot of work roasting the butternut squash just to puree it but I really think it helps give it extra flavor that it needs. This soup is really really easy to make. It just takes a little bit of time, though most of it is down time. I love the addition of apple to this soup because it gives it the perfect sweetness. It's also a paleo soup, but you could switch out the chicken broth easily for vegetarian and make it a vegetarian meal. The curry powder in the soup is not overwhelming to me at all, but then again I love curry powder. Feel free to use less if you're not a big fan, or you could eliminate all of it and have an even more basic soup.

I definitely recommend this soup for this fall/winter. It's perfect soup weather right now. Take advantage of butternut squash while it's still available. I'd serve this soup with a salad if David could actually chew. Let me know if you end up making it! I'd love to know what you think.

Curry Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Inspired by Hungry Healthy Girl
Serves 4-5, depending on serving size

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped, about 4 cups
2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
2 granny smith apples, diced
2 teaspoons curry powder
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread out evenly on one to two baking sheets. Roast for 15 minutes, stir around butternut squash, and roast another 15 minutes.

2. In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat add olive oil. Sauté onions and apples until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cook for about 1 minute. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.

3. Once butternut squash is roasted, add it to the boiling chicken broth. Reduce heat to low, cover pot with lid, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lid, puree liquid with an immersion blender (or blender) until smooth and stir in coconut milk. Garnish with pumpkin seeds if desired.
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