Salted Caramel Corn with Toasted Coconut

I’m hanging onto the ends of Summer and resisting the change in weather even though it is happening  There is a crispness in the air in the mornings and nights, everyone is sleeping better but when the sun is out people are still bustling in the city .In the Fall, our city population almost doubles because we are a university town. It’s nice to see loads of new people, and local businesses get a nice monetary push.

Today however is neither Summer or Fall but a Nova Scotia drab and grey day. Days like this I just want to cuddle up and binge watch TV series, maybe with a cute boy, a cuddly dog or two and some popcorn.

My resistance all Summer long to turn on the oven is waning, yesterday it actually was on for about 10 minutes to finish up this perfect caramel corn. I found a recipe online for caramel corn in the microwave by A Spicy Perspective (original recipe here). I really wanted to make it but I had two problems, I didn’t have a large paper grocery bag, and I also don’t own a big microwave. I adapted it, which meant I needed to turn on the oven, but I can assure you it was worth it. My version is popped in coconut oil on the stove top, I didn’t have cashews so I toasted some coconut, and added extra salt for that sweet and salty taste of Fall.  I really love all the textures and flavours combined together in this caramel corn. It’s the perfect thing to make when all the new seasons of your favorite show are starting up at the end of this month.

Salted Caramel Corn with Toasted Coconut

Salted Caramel Corn with Toasted Coconut

adapted from A Spicy Perspective’s Microwave Caramel Popcorn

  • 1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels
  • 2-3 tbs organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1+ 1/2 cups organic coconut flakes toasted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbs salted butter
  • 3 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tbs coarse sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • sea salt to taste

Method

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In a heavy bottomed large stock pot heat 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil over medium high heat. Add three kernels of corn and wait for all three to pop. Remove the popped corn from the pot and add the 1/2 cup of kernels remaining. Since my pot set has metal covers I use a tea towel to wrap on the top, opening to guard my hands. Popping corn produces a lot steam and you can easily burn yourself if you let the lid fly up with no protection. Once the new kernels start to pop I shake the pot around so no kernel get burned. You will usually be able to tell there isn’t a lot of whole kernels left as the popping slows down. Remove popcorn from heat and place in a large ceramic or metal mixing bowl.

Stove Top Popcorn

Using a medium-sized non-stick pan, heat over medium and add the coconut. Use a wooden spoon to keep the coconut moving. It will only take a few moments to toast. Once it’s as even as you can get it, empty the coconut unto the popcorn.

Toasted Coconut

Prepare a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Salted Caramel in the Making

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl add, brown sugar, butter, maple syrup vanilla, salt. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir, then microwave another 2 minutes, until boiling. Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave, and  immediately stir in the baking soda until the caramel changes colour.

Caramel Collage

Quickly pour caramel unto the popped corn and coconut. I used a tea towel to support one side of the bowl, added a third of caramel at a time and stirred to popcorn to try to make it as evenly coated as possible. 

Stir it up

Turn caramel corn onto the parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.

Ready Set Bake

Bake for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir and let cool at room temperature for about an hour.

Salty and Sweet

Store in air tight containers, and be sure to let cool completely before storing.

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Cocoa and Toasted Coconut Energy Bars

This week zoomed by with super speed. I didn’t even notice I haven’t been blogging because I definitely had been cooking and busy.

Mid-last week was my lovely co-workers Birthday wherein I attempted a new recipe, late at night, for French toast cupcakes. Although the cupcakes turned out delicious, they were kind of topsy turvy. The cake rose and spilled over the sides because I baked with topped with cereal bits that ended up weighing down their normally perfect texture and shape.  I was knew that I had minimal time to construct them plus I needed to transport them to work by bus that icing them at home would be a bad idea. I refrigerated the cinnamon butter cream, having what I thought was a brilliant idea, to scoop the icing out to make it look like butter on top of french toast and then to finish the cakes with drizzled maple syrup. This in my mind would really help the transportation, no in perfect iced sides or smushed tops. Luckily they pretty much looked exactly as how I’d put them together when I arrived which rarely happens.

I really, really need a cupcake carrier.

The look of the cakes was not what I wanted and because of this, I want to post a picture but warn you there won’t be a recipe for them soon. Part of a food blogging and trying until you get the recipe, the visual appearance and the photographs just right. Often that doesn’t happen the first time around so you have to try and try again. I want to perfect the presentation of these cupcakes because they deserve it but here are French toast cupcakes in the making…

French Toast Cupcake

So to flip this blog post over to something I can give you a recipe for, I also made these super healthy and delicious cocoa energy bars. Unlike the above cupcakes the shape and presentation of these babies can’t really change because after they are done I like to pop them into the freezer to store up to two weeks. It makes them easier to cut into and handle, wrap and store. When they come to room temperature they are better tasting however because their softer, warmer temperature makes them more browniesque.

Cocoa and Toasted Coconut Energy Bars 1

Surprise chunks of chewy dates, crunchy cashews and crisp and toasty coconut, just enough chocolate and sweetness to be satisfied, and enough protein and carbs to keep you going until your next meal. I’ve made a few variations of these bars some I have posted (Brownie Flavoured Energy Bars, Granola Protien Bites and Raw Oatmeal Date Cookies) and others I have not due to similarity to the ones I have posted. The big thing to take away here is you need some sort of nut or nut butter, dates, oats and protein powder then tasty add-ins and you have a way better alternative to pre-packaged granola bars and chemical full protein bars. Makes 15 bars.

Cocoa and Toasted Coconut Energy Bars 3

Cocoa and Toasted Coconut Energy Bars

  • 100g about 1 cup of raw cashews soaking for 2 hours
  • 1 cup of fresh dates* or 1 + 1/2 cups of dates** pitted
  • 1/2 cup of boiling water (may need a bit extra at the end)
  • 3 cups of large flake oatmeal, milled down with a food processed
  • 1 cup of raw flakes coconut (unsweetened
  • 1 + 1/2 tbs of golden flax seed
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup of hemp protein powder
  • 1/3 of dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp of espresso powder
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 3 tbs agave or maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp of salt

Method

Raw Cashews

Rinse and soak cashews in enough water to cover them for about 1-2 hours.

Soaking Cashews

In a non-stick pan add coconut to toast. Turn heat to medium and stir frequently, once at least half of the coconut is toasted turn off the heat and remove the coconut to the pan to cool.

Toasted Coconut

In a food processor, grind oatmeal and flax seeds until it’s about the texture of couscous. Add it large mixing bowl with cocoa, hemp powder, chia seeds and salt.

Dry Ingredients

Using the same food processor, mill the toasted coconut and add to the same mixing bowl.

Ground Toasted Coconut

Drain the cashews, add tot he same food processor and blend until you have a a mixture that looks kind of like chunky peanut butter. Set aside.

Almost Raw Cashew Butter

*In my experience there are two kinds of dates you will come across when shopping. Ones that are fresh, used for snacking most often that still have a lot of liquid left in them. They are the texture of jam inside and usually are found in the produce aisle. I do believe this type of date has more nutritional value however they can be harder to find all year round if you do not live in a city. If you are using what I will refer to as a fresh date, you most likely will not need to add as much water as the recipe calls for and probably can get away with less (about 1 cup worth of) dates. Fresh dates will most likely need to be pitted, by slicing lengthwise down the middle of each one and removing the hard pit. You should also at least quarter these dates to make creating these protein bars easier.

*If you are only able to use the dry dates (as I used in this recipe), they are often found in the baking aisle and come already pitted. They also are available all year in most grocery stores and tend to be cheaper. Due to the fact they have lost most of their moisture, I find you need to re-hydrate them  to make use of them in this type of recipe.

Dried Whole Dates

I used  the second option here in this recipe, dried dates so I reconstituted them in 1/2 cup of boiling water. You will also need to use a spoon to keep pushing the dates under the water as they swell. What happens is that you create a chunky date molasses, that is perfect for sweetening and holding together the energy bars.

Date Molasses

Once the dates are ready, add them and the cashews and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and mix as well as you can. Check for sweetness, I found I needed to add a few tablespoons of agave or maple syrup to the mix. If you still find the mixture is too dry add a few tablespoons of warm water until you can just form a dough. It’s important you do not add too much water, or when the bars come to room temperature they will fall apart.

Protien Bar Dough

Once you have the texture you want, press all the dough into a prepared glass baking dish. Depending on how thick you want the bars you can use a 9″ x 13″ or 8″x11″.

Press into Pan

Cover with plastic wrap and store them in the freezer for a few hours before cutting. Wrap individually after that and take for you mid afternoon sweet craving.

Cocoa and Toasted Coconut Energy bars

Cheezy Kale Chips

Happy belated Thanksgiving to my American family and readers!

I’m riding the tardy train again because one of my co-workers leaving the province soon and other social things are starting to ramp up due to the impending holidays. I got to spend a lovely Friday evening decorating my neighbors Christmas tree and tucking into a little too much wine and potato chips which left me a little less than a stellar Saturday morning. In fact on Saturday, I didn’t get a thing done, except grocery shopping because today we are going to celebrate my boyfriend’s mother’s birthday and I needed to make her treats to go along with her gift.

Somehow I have backslid into eating like poo and not exercising as much, and I feel it in every part of my body. I’m tired and bloated and low energy so I need to freshen myself up this week. Last weekend I went to the market, or as Lee calls it the Hipster Mall, and I bought some beautiful dinosaur kale. I finally got into it around mid-week when I cracked out my dehydrator again. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it, other than stare at it, because it’s pretty much the most beautiful cabbage I’ve ever laid eyes on. See?

I decided, after putting it off, I need to add to my growing list of kale chip recipes – especially now that I’ve started in hard with the bad holiday eating. These kale chips are creamy and cheesy while being raw and vegan. The dinosaur kale gives a lot more space for sauce, and they seem to crisp up faster in the dehydrator as they lay flat until other kale varieties I’ve tried. The cheeze sauce is thick and vegan and really needs to be worked into the kale before you add it to the dehydrator. You could use white miso paste to make it look more like parmesan but once they are dry the brown miso isn’t as dark as I originally anticipated.

Cheezy Kale Chips

  • one bunch of dinosaur kale rinsed and spun/patted dry
  • 1/4 cup of tahini paste
  • 3-4 dashes of prepared hot sauce
  • 1 tsp of miso paste
  • 1 tbs of olive oil
  • 1/4 nutritional yeast plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle or chili powder
  • salt to taste, if needed

Method

Wash, and dry an entire bunch of kale. With scissors (and your hands) cut out the vein of each leaf. Once all leaves are stemmed, cut each 1/2 leaf into thirds. Place in a large bowl.

In a small bowl combine tahini, miso, olive oil, hot sauce, chipotle/chili powder, garlic salt and nutritional yeast. Stir until well combined, mixture will be very thick.

Drop sauce by teaspoon into the kale until all the sauce is gone. Using your hands, massage each leaf into the sauce and make everyone is coated. This process will take at least 5 minutes. When you think everything is coated sprinkle with additional nutritional yeast and salt if you want and then lay out the leaves onto the dehydrator trays as evenly as possible, uncurling them if you need to. Set your dehydrator to 105 degrees, leave to dry for about 10-12 hours.

When they are dried, store in a air-tight container for a few days.

Pumpkin Pie Granola

Hello blog world! I’ve not abandoned you I promise. I just had a series of unfortunate events but it’s almost cleared up now. Exactly a week ago my computer cord went and it took me a week to figure out it wasn’t the cord it was the battery so now that I’m straightened away I’m back to blogging.

A lot has happened since I lost communication so I’m just going to give you all a run down. First up, hurricane Sandy did not affect me in my day to day life but it did devastate a lot of the eastern seaboard of the USA. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes and have been without shelter or power. If you would like to donate to the Red Cross relief fund please click here. As always, when hurricanes hit, I worry about our furry friends. I’ve found a link to Animal Planet that advises which shelters were hit, how the animals are doing at each shelter, what shelters need donations and links to help owners find their pets. If you are able to donate or have an interest in the state of the animals please check it out please click here.

On a happier note I wanted to talk about some things I didn’t have a chance to last week with my computer on the fritz. The main thing I missed sharing was Halloween which is pretty much my Christmas; I love it so much. I went as Tim Burton’s Catwoman this year and made my costume as per-use. It was fun to dress head to toe in fake leather for a night and have no one recognize you, albeit a little sweaty. I was lucky enough to get to dress up for the office but Catwoman like’s to keep her identity safe (aka her costume is not HR approved) so I went as my version of Selina Kyle who’s day job is a secretary. I had perfect comic book hair that got ruined in the high winds. Please pardon the image quality of these next two shots as I took them myself with my phone.

Today I’m making you granola, and as I type this it’s baking away in the oven filling my house with the smell of pumpkin pie. I’m not a fan of pre-made granolas that incorporate a lot of sugar and oil so this granola only had 1 tablespoon or oil and is naturally sweetened with dates and maple syrup. This recipe is totally customizable to your tastes, meaning you can add whatever dried fruit, nuts and seeds that you fancy.  If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance you can use gluten free oats to make this recipe gluten-free.Not a pumpkin fan? Check out my low-fat granola recipe here sweetened with orange juice.

Pumpkin Pie Granola

makes about 6 cups of granola

  • 16 dates pitted and diced, a little over 1 cup
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbs of vegetable or coconut oil
  • 1+1/2 tbs of chia seeds
  • 3 tbs of golden flax seed
  • 1/2 cup of sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup large coconut flakes
  • 4 cups of large flake organic oats

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pit the dates and chop into quarters lengthwise and then dice. Add to a large bowl with the pumpkin puree,maple syrup, vanilla, oil and spices and stir well.

Add dried cranberries, nuts and seeds and then oats and fold into mixture until everything is uniformly coated.

Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and pour about 2 cups of the granola onto the pan making sure to leave space to turn it, you don’t want a thick layer or it won’t brown nicely.

Bake for about 5-7 minutes then turn granola and repeat two to three times. I find it takes about 20 minutes for each batch to brown. Once the granola is browned let rest out of the oven on a cookie sheet for about 2 minutes before folding parchment paper into a cone a dumping in a  large metal or ceramic bowl.

Repeat the whole process about  three more times until all the granola is cooked. Cool completely and store in an airtight container up to two weeks.

Brownie Flavoured Energy Bars

It’s Saturday, it’s my long weekend, and tonight I’m going to the annual Port of Wines Festival in Halifax for a Grand Tasting. It’s my first Grand Tasting so I’m already trying to make up a game plan in terms of how do I get out of there alive. One ounce samples multiplied by 65 tables of vendors offering two to three samples at each table mean, I can only drink one third of the samples, if I plan to not to get alcohol poisoning. If I make it out in one piece, I’ll report to you on Monday about it. 

On to these bars.

I’ll be honest with you guys, I got a ton of raw sunflower seeds at a great price and then I thought I would make vanilla sunflower seed butter for the blog. I kind of failed, but there is a silver lining I’ll explain. My first attempt didn’t butter up, literally,  it stayed mealy and I didn’t know what to do with it. I now know that I need an actual food processor to make any nut or seed butters because every recipe or blog I read tell me, I almost made it, it just needed to be a more powerful processor and I probably needed to run it for quite a long while. I have a mini-processor which is great for hummus and small mincing jobs but not for nut butters.  The silver lining is that I got to make these babies. I actually wasn’t sure if they would turn out, I just dumped a few things together and hoped for the best. I got so many compliments and good feedback from them though that I’m posting the recipe.

I used the idea of LARABARS, nut and fruit energy bars to create these freezer bars that taste like brownies when they come to room temperature. I used only natural sugars and if you use dairy free chocolate you can make them vegan. They are not technically raw because of the boiling water but they will keep in your freezer for 1-2 weeks, makes 12 bars under 200 calories a bar. You can also substitute the type of protein powder you use I just prefer hemp and the texture goes un-noticed here. Bonus, with the right ingredients they can easily be made gluten-free.

Brownie Flavoured Energy Bars

Sunflower ‘Butter’

  • 1 cup of raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or the contents of one vanilla bean
  • 1 tbs vegetable or flax oil
  • a pinch of salt

bars

  • 1 recipe of sunflower ‘butter’
  • 2 cup of pitted dates, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tbs flax seed
  • 1 tbs chia seed
  • 1/3 cup of Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2 cups of large flake oats
  • 1/4 cup of hemp protein powder
  • handful of chocolate chips (optional)
  • pinch of salt

Method

Make the sunflower seed butter.

Place the insides of a vanilla bean and the sunflowers into a food processor and let run for about 2 minutes.

Add oil and salt and continue to process an additional 3- 5 minutes.

If you want more of a butter for toast, keep running the food processor it can take quite a while (up to 10 minutes) but it will eventually turn to a more liquid state.

Prepare a 9″x11″ baking dish with non-stick spray.

Add dates to a liquid measuring cup, they should be loosely packed, and you can use less if you want the bars to be less sweet. The dates add a chewy texture and bind the bars so I wouldn’t cut it down under 1+1/2 cups. Pour boiling water over dates and let sit for a few minutes. The water re-hydrates the dates and makes it more of a ;paste’ that is easier to work with. You will need to push the dates on top into the ones below and if needed, place in the microwave for a minute to make sure they all absorb a little water and become soft.

Empty sunflower butter into a medium bowl and add to it the oats, chia and flax seeds,hemp protein powder and cocoa. Mix well until all is combined.

Once the date mixture is consistent and cool enough to touch, add to the oats. Mix with a wooden spoon and use your hands if you need to, it will feel almost like playdough. Add  chocolate chips, and once everything is combined, press into the prepared pan and freeze for 2 hours.

Cut into 12 bars, wrap individually and store in freezer for up to 2 weeks. They can stay at room temperature for a few hours, and everyone I gave one too preferred them at room temperature, but they are easier to cut and wrap when they are frozen. Enjoy!

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