Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Garden highlights - 2017

Heirloom tomatoes

This year's garden was about compromise.  Work and studies left me little time to nurture seeds from start to transplant, so I opted for heirloom seedlings from online sources and the local nursery.  I was pleasantly surprised that the selection wasn't as narrow as I had feared.   Happily, I was still able to stock the freezer with tomatoes of about half a dozen varieties for making soups and stews over the winter, and there was usually something available for harvest fresh from the garden on most days.  Sadly, the basil was ready for harvest as I studied for a final and then was away on vacation.  Because of this, I didn't get to stock up on homemade pesto this year, but I think the neighbors enjoyed the windfall.  Another casualty to this year's weather was the garlic, which only yielded a few scrawny bulbs at harvest.  On the plus side, I was able to deter the deer that like to nibble our green bean plants.  This time, I tucked the bean seeds among the prickly leaves of zucchini plants, which the deer avoid.  This seemed to have made our garden no longer on the equivalent of the deer's Zagat guide of best places to eat because they seemed to have been frequenting our neighbor's flowering bush instead.  This year's gardening experience was certainly a bit pared down over the last few; however, I'll take it over not having one at all.  The seed catalogs have arrived in the mail just as we're settling in for a couple of weeks of below freezing winter weather, so it's time to snuggle up to the fireplace and start planning for next spring.

Although I didn't get to share the progress throughout the growing season, I did manage to capture it in photos.  Here are some of the highlights from the garden this year.
Flowers in an urn, a raised bed, a fig tree, zucchini and yellow squash

Daily harvests

Some of the flowers from this summer

Swiss chard, Italian eggplant, tomatoes ripening on the vine, strawberries

Friday, December 8, 2017

Easy chocolate superfood truffles

Chia seed coated truffles with cacao nibs and cacao dusted truffles with dried cherries and pecans

There are holiday treats everywhere you turn at this time of year.  So that I have something that seems decadent without straying away from my healthy eating program.   These little whole food bites are not only a decadent answer to a craving for something sweet, but they are packed with superfood nutrition and antioxidants found in raw cacao and maca powders, dried cherries, cocoa nibs and chia seeds.  I like to keep a batch stored in the freezer because I like the chewy, caramel-like texture they take on from being frozen.  These were my substitute for the Chunky candy bars that were in the office all during Halloween.

These just take a few minutes to blend together in a food processor.  They can be rolled into large marble sized balls or patted out into a pan and chilled for 30 minutes before cutting into fudge size squares.  In either case, store in a sealed container between rows of parchment paper in the freezer for a more chewy consistency or the fridge for a softer truffle-like bite.

Easy chocolate superfood truffles

1 cup tightly packed, pitted medjool dates (approximately 12 large dates)
3 Tbsp raw cacao powder (plus extra for coating balls)
2 Tbsp chia seeds 
1 Tbsp maca powder
5 Tbsp almond butter (or other nut or seed butter of choice)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (or other nuts of your choice - optional)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener of choice)
1 tsp vanilla extract or powder
1/4 - 1/2 cup add-ins of your choice (cocoa nibs or mini chocolate chips, dried fruit such as cherries, cranberries, coconut shreds, or diced apricots)

Into the bowl of your food processor, put everything but the add-ins and process until smooth.  This may take awhile, but be patient and use a rubber spatula to push down the mixture from the sides often.  If the mixture seems too dry, add a few drops of warm water or plant based milk to help loosen the mixture.  Once the mixture is smooth, add any desired fruits, nuts or nibs and pulse a few times to combine without breaking them up too much, or mix them in by hand.  Take about 2 tablespoons of mixture and roll into a ball by hand, then roll in cacao powder, chopped nuts or coconut shreds. Repeat with the remaining mixture.  These can be eaten right away or stored in the refrigerator or freezer between sheets of parchment paper.

Makes about 12 - 16 treats.

Thanks for reading!