When visiting Ireland, it was amazing to see how attentive they were to people’s food allergies, intolerances, or anything else. This is one menu I really noticed. Others would have labels and legends for what each item on the menu contained (dairy, gluten, soy, nuts, etc). And if somebody wasn’t sure, they would immediately go to the kitchen to find out. They would go out of their way to make the dish work for you and if they couldn’t, they’d suggest the best alternative. Why can’t all our places be so good?
I make birthday cookies for all my friends. The friend on the roster last week is gluten intolerant and lactose intolerant, so it always makes it even more fun to bake something using gluten-free flour, xantham gum and/or other random goodies and no butter, milk, etc. Well she told me she’s on the Paleo diet now and asked if I could make something based on that and mentioned there are good brownie recipes out there. To the search engines I go…what I ended up deciding on were some Paleo Brownie Bites (aka bliss, heaven, death by chocolate), which I found from a great food blog, The Lucky Penny Blog. They don’t require baking, have no crazy ingredients. The only thing you need is to think a little bit ahead (for refrigeration). And based on my tastes and the folks I knew they were going to, I made very few changes.
2/3 cup raw walnut halves and pieces
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 heaping cup soft medjool dates, pitted (about 17 – 20 medium sized dates — I bought the small tub at Safeway)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons coconut milk OR any liquid sweetener, like honey, agave, or maple syrup if you want your brownie bites to be sweeter — I used Maple Agave Syrup from Trader Joe’s
2/3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut to roll them in (I’m not a fan of coconut so I rolled half of them in crushed walnuts, the others half I left plain)
Place pitted dates in a bowl of warm water for a minute to soften
Add unsweetened cocoa powder and walnuts to food processor, blend until walnuts become fine crumbs.
Drain dates and place in the food processor with the cocoa walnut crumbs. Add vanilla. Process until mixture starts to combine. It may not fully combine until liquid is added. Add coconut milk or liquid sweetener (if desired) half a tablespoon at a time. Pulse. You will know the consistency is right when the dough combines into a ball in the middle of the food processor. If dough is too runny add a tablespoon or more cocoa powder to bring it back to a dough like state.
Transfer dough to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I cooled mine overnight, you could also freeze it for faster results.
Once dough is cold, put coconut crumbs (or in my case, walnut crumbs) from earlier into a shallow bowl. I used the great Pampered Chef Chopper to get them nice and finely chopped.
Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough and roll them between hands to form balls. Roll balls in crumbs, pressing the crumbs gently into the ball. Continue until all dough is gone. You can moisten your hands with water if the dough begins to stick to your palms as you roll.
I made some smaller balls and bigger ones. When done, kept them in the fridge. Took them to my friend the next night for the party. They were a huge hit! Amazing!! None left. I might add a bit of flavor kick next time with a little spiced rum (as long as Paleo followers don’t mind) or hint of cinnamon. But, I am so glad my friend requested something like this because it was an awesome recipe for me to find. I also love that this recipe has no dairy in it so those who are lactose intolerant can easily enjoy some brownies. Heaven, bliss, chocolate.
I continue to enjoy little-to-no-cook meals, and my next great chance came when my friend gave me some cucumbers from her garden the other day. Can’t let those go to waste. So I debated what to do with them. Normally I like to cover them in hummus but decided I could expand my horizons. I decided to go for a simple quinoa and veggie salad.
Quinoa is just a powerhouse for us, if you hadn’t heard. Need a quick cheat sheet? Check it out here. It’s also great for those who are gluten intolerant. My favorite one is the Tri-Color Quinoa from Trader Joe’s. I cooked that first (the nice 15 minutes, including boiling time). While that was underway, I cut my cucumbers into big chunks and found the other ingredients I wanted to throw into the salad. I opted for grape tomatoes, canned tuna, some walnuts and just a simple oil & vinegar dressing, oh, and S&P.
This was perfect! So refreshing, healthy and very filling. There are so many variations you can make to it, too. Any veggie, any meat, any nut. So, what are you making for dinner tonight?