Toasted Almond & Sea Salt Chocolate Bark

Toasted Almond and Sea Salt Vegan Chocolate BarkSince my first chocolate testing experience using cacao butter, I’ve created quite an extensive repertoire of delicious treats. I mean, what can’t you cover in chocolate? But of all my creations, the toasted almond and sea salt bark is my favorite. The salt adds another dimension by enhancing the sweetness, and toasting the almonds brings out their natural oils, which adds more flavor. The first time I made it, I didn’t add enough toasted almonds (in my opinion), and so I would break off the pieces without almonds and put them back in the container for Justin. Ha! So the next time I made this, I was sure to cover every inch of the bark in toasted almonds. This chocolate is smooth, rich, and nutrient dense. It rivals chocolate sold in lavish boutiques, because after all, the handful of ingredients used to make this are of the finest quality. No artificial or processed fillers here! Continue reading “Toasted Almond & Sea Salt Chocolate Bark”

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Vegan Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

vegan fudgy black bean browniesI’ve made these brownies now about a gazillion times, and every time people are shocked to learn that they’re made from beans. When I make them and sell them at festivals, curious passersby will always stop and sample them. There are usually three groups of people I encounter when this happens. The Yes, I’ve heard of bean brownies before but I’ve never…; then there is the Beans? Oh wow I’ve gotta try these group; and then there is the third group, those who have tried them in the past and wave somebody new over to try them. Those people are my homies. They know a good thing when they taste it. Continue reading “Vegan Fudgy Black Bean Brownies”

Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls

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Having taken the year off from work to be with my little guy, visions of sugar plums and recipe tastings danced in my head. However, I’m lucky if I remember to make dinner. Period. Every day is filled with craziness and I have no idea where the hours go, and I absolutely love it. So those moments when I am able to make something new for my blog (and photograph it!) is just icing on the cake. I just sat down after a crazy day of making to-go lunches, playing with my 4 1/2 month old little dude, and having my upstairs gutted, and I gave myself two choices…work on that blog post that I started 3 days ago or continue reading that awesome book that came yesterday (I think I’m on page 2). Cleaning was off the table since that is the reason I never take naps when Oliver does. So I decided to treat myself tonight. By the way, the book is In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney and it’s quite inspirational. Anyway, I digress… I’m going to continue writing this blog post even though I’m half expecting Mr. Oliver to wake up any minute since he wakes up All. The. Time. He’s lucky he’s adorable. Everyone asks me if he’s a good boy. I tell them he’s the best. The sweetest. The most precious. Then they say…He’s a good sleeper? And I reply, Oh no, he’s the worst. I was going to wait until the 6 month mark to begin introducing foods for reasons I’ve only read about; however, I’m second guessing that in hopes that (perhaps) he’ll sleep better. (Some swear by it; some say it doesn’t work. Your thoughts? Comment below please!) I realize that most of my posts lately have been about motherhood, but it’s tough not to write about it since it consumes my every waking moment…and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Okay, onto the recipe. Continue reading “Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls”

Doubled Dipped Pecan Clusters And Just A Few Random (Pregnancy) Thoughts!

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Thanks to some of you who reached out to me, I was able to see that this recipe (posted last year) was no longer available. I wasn’t able to retrieve it, so I decided to remake it using pecans instead of walnuts. You can find the recipe for these raw, vegan, caramel clusters beneath these random pregnancy thoughts by yours truly.

  • I’m trying to drink lots of water – I carry around my 74 oz water jug at work and at home, and now it’s just a habit to take swigs of it throughout the day. I try to drink one and a half of these a day.
  • Umm, maternity pants are the greatest invention ever and I want to wear them for the rest of my life! I feel like I’m wearing leggings everyday. On a similar note, I was not loving the belly band so much. It’s useful in that it’s economical because you can still wear your old pants, but I felt like I was walking around with my pants around my knees all day long. Really cute.
  • I dowloaded all of my pictures from my camera onto my computer and then saved them to shutterfly. I figured what better time to do it before I’m busy with baby? And now it won’t take 10 minutes for my camera to upload the thousands upon thousands of photos I had (most of which were food photos – 34 pictures of hummus? I’m such a loser!).
  • I can’t wait to get into the new house where the lighting is so much better! I have so many food blogging ideas of which I can’t always do in my dark apartment.
  • Knowing how loving and affectionate Justin is with me, I can’t wait to see how in love he will be with the baby ❤
  • I haven’t had crazy pregnancy cravings like ice cream and pickles. I have my usual cravings, but if it’s something that’s not good for me and baby, I will usually just let the craving pass or make a healthier version. Of course, this doesn’t happen 100% of the time. Some things I have been loving though are sorbets like this one. My current fav is strawberry. I’m also loving orange juice (and I make sure to drink it with my prenatal vitamin since the vitamin C helps the body to absorb the iron better). I’ve also been substituting orange juice for almond milk when I make my after dinner sorbets and they’re soo delicious. I don’t even need to add in maple syrup because the juice adds that extra sweetness. Cereal! I’ve never been the biggest fan of cereal in the morning. I just felt there were so many more interesting choices. But lately, it’s all I want. And it has to have banana in it! Of course, I’m still loving bagels and I eat them about 2-3 times a week. Sometimes more…
  • Speaking of iron, I’m supposed to take an iron supplement because of my slight anemia, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet!
  • As for packing lunches for school, I’m obsessed with coconut milk yogurt (So Delicious‘s Greek Style is my favorite), granola bars, oranges, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and Amy’s frozen vegan wraps are my go-tos. Those sound like a week’s worth of lunches, but I actually pack all of them in my bag each day : ) The peanut butter and jelly sandwich usually doesn’t stay in my bag long – I usually eat half of it for breakfast and the other half with my yogurt and granola for lunch. On those days, I’ll leave the Amy’s wrap home.
  • I like the Honest company’s prenatal vitamin because it’s made with whole-food based ingredients.
  • The midwives at my birthing center are a lot more strict than I am with this pregnancy and they require me to take all of these classes like breastfeeding and natural childbirth. I suppose when she was telling me to register for these I thought she was just suggesting them; however, at my last appointment I found out she was dead serious and I felt like a student getting in trouble by the teacher. So long story short, I have my breastfeeding class on Wednesday evening and made the childbirth education class for April. Sometimes I need a push in the right direction because I tend to take quite the laissez-faire approach to life! Another thing I was supposed to do was find myself a pediatrician, so if any of you local gals/guys like yours, I’d love to hear from you!
  • I am still going to the gym about 3-4 times a week; however, the feeling is not as rewarding since I’m sweating way less and just getting bigger. I continue to go though for the long term benefits and because it does help boost my energy and keep everything else in check…digestion, mood swings, obesity (ha!)…
  • Would love to hear from anyone who can relate – my skin gets itchy/tingly at nighttime. A few times I had to get up and take a shower just to stop myself from going insane. I’ve read up on it but most accounts are about itchiness in contained areas, like the stomach and breasts. This is not the case for me as my whole body becomes irritated and I’m just curious if anyone else knows what I’m talking about…
  • Now that I’m a couple of weeks into my third trimester, I do feel a bit more fatigued than my second trimester, but I’m still able to go to sleep early so this isn’t such a calamity for me.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup cacao powder
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Steps:

  1. Blend the dates until gooey. Soaking them for 30 minutes helps create a creamier mixture.
  2. Combine the date mixture with the chopped pecans and form into clusters.
  3. Melt the oil and combine it with the cacao and maple syrup.
  4. Dip the clusters into the chocolate sauce and refrigerate for about an hour. Repeat the dipping for an extra chocolatey sauce!

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Peanut Butter Cups


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These peanut butter cups have about a handful of ingredients and require no baking, and the messier they look, the better they taste! After making a dozen, I became restless and started making peanut butter balls, so it’s really up to you how you want to go about making these sweet & salty, chewy treats.

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A few years back, I made a chocolate cake with peanut butter icing for Justin’s birthday. Initially, I thought I would just slap on some peanut butter and call it icing, but after a little research, I realized that sugar was needed. The icing came out delicious, so I kept that in mind this time around. Most of that cake wound up in the garbage, however, since we took it to the beach on a windy, September afternoon to play volleyball. I’ve since learned not to do that…

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Ingredients (Makes about 18 cups):

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter (I used salted)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, packed
  • generous pinch of salt

Chocolate Shell:

  • 1 cup cacao powder
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Steps:

  1. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake holders or wax paper.
  2. Combine the filling ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and mix together so that everything sticks together; I used my hands and the heat helped to bind ingredients together.
  3. Combine chocolate shell ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, making sure the coconut oil is in liquid form. It works best when the icing is very thin, which requires re-heating because this mixture tends to thicken quite quickly.
  4. Spoon about one half tablespoon of chocolate icing into each cupcake holder and spread evenly against the bottom.
  5. Using about one tablespoon of peanut butter filling, roll into a ball, then flatten a little, and press onto chocolate icing, allowing the chocolate to rise up on the peanut butter’s sides.
  6. Spoon another half tablespoon of chocolate atop the peanut butter; you may need to re-heat the chocolate mixture before this step to thin it out.
  7. I left some of my tops open, and I actually liked them the best (who doesn’t 😉 …) – I thought their peanut butter to chocolate ratio was just right! Justin, on the other hand, liked the cups better when they were covered in chocolate, so whatever floats ya boat. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, then enjoy! I keep mine stored in the freezer.

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Hot Chocolate (& This Week’s Balanced Bag Lunch)

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Hot chocolate is to winter as pineapple mango smoothies are to summer. A co-worker of mine just asked me if I’ve posted any smoothie recipes lately. Although I wish I was able to drink smoothies and green juices all day every day, I just can’t wake up during these December, New York mornings and say, “Mmm, I can’t wait to drink an iced cold watermelon, raspberry, almond milk smoothie.” (On a side note, my father actually does. I’m talking about real deal, lentil-oatmeal-banana-chia seeds-hemp-pineapple-blueberry-orange-spinach-cinnamon kinda smoothies. And he lives in Pennsylvania where it snowed over a foot last weekend. Just sayin…) I made this hot chocolate recipe a lot last winter and I kind of forgot about it until the other night. It takes about 3 minutes and entails just 3 ingredients.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp cacao powder

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Steps:

  1. On medium/low heat, whisk all ingredients together until completely blended. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Taste for sweetness.

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On another note, we have another balanced bag lunch to discuss! Although last week I had to devote each minute I was home to baking for a holiday boutique, I’m happy to get back to the bb lunches. So, let’s get into it. In this week’s lunch there will be:

  • a pint of coconut pumpkin “risotto” with beans and peas
  • a large fudge black bean brownie (my favorite)
  • a bottle of water

Pick-up times are between 6-8 pm on Wednesday evening. For those balanced co-workers of mine who are interested, I’ll be bringing the lunches to work Thursday morning. If interested in ordering, you can send me a message via the contact tab at the top of this page, message me on Facebook at Jaime Witkowski, email me at balancedbella@gmail.com, or send me a text if you have my number. You can also check out what the coconut pumpkin risotto will look like by viewing the recipe here. I’ll be showcasing some new and decadent packaged baked goods this Sunday at Ms. Elaine’s Dance Studio here in Rockaway, so hopefully I’ll see some of you local people there!  I haven’t started baking for that yet, but if you have a favorite recipe, let me know in the comments below and I’ll make sure to have it there : )

Last Thursday night at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club's Holiday Boutique <3
Last Thursday night at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club’s Holiday Boutique ❤

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